LONDON (Reuters) – “Society expects more of our industry.” That was the stark warning from Jean-Sebastien Jacques, head of one of the world’s largest mining companies, Rio Tinto, in a keynote speech at last week’s London Metal Exchange Week.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind we will face greater regulation and scrutiny,” Jacques went on to say. The scrutiny has already begun. The next day environmental protesters disrupted the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne, leading to multiple arrests and a draconian threat by Australia’s prime minister to ban future anti-mining demonstrations.
Half way around the world, protesters were blocking access roads to SQM’s lithium operations high in Chile’s Atacama Desert in a rumbling dispute over water rights. Here writ small is the industrial metals industry’s big problem.
The green technology revolution, at the heart of which sits lithium, holds massive promise for the world’s miners, but to reap the rewards the entire metals supply chain will have to “green” itself.
An unwelcome reminder of just how massive a challenge that’s going to be came in the form of yet another fatal tailings dam collapse, this time at a Russian gold mine.
The death of at least 15 artisanal miners ticked all the wrong boxes on the industry’s new target list of environmental responsibility, sustainability and good governance (ESG).