The focus on ESG is making life harder for mining companies
On Tuesday evening, Barrick Gold Corp.’s chief executive Mark Bristow stood inside downtown Toronto’s National Club, amid the dark wood panelling and paintings of pastoral scenes.
While a chef carved a rump roast under a heat lamp, dozens of mining executives, investment managers and foreign dignitaries gathered in the reception room to listen to Bristow — who has gained renown for discovering gold in Africa’s poorest countries, but also for his habit of lashing out at the rest of the mining sector for its shortcomings.
His talk at Barrick’s cocktail reception marked a finale of sorts to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual conference, which drew around 23,000 people to Toronto over the past week.
This year, protestors showed up intermittently outside the downtown convention center to decry the sector’s record on human rights and the environment, but their objections largely passed unnoticed by those inside the giant cavernous convention hall, where the economic impact of coronavirus and rising gold prices generated more discussion, and beer and spirits flowed freely.
Taking the floor at his own cocktail reception, Bristow started by taking aim at the topic du jour for the mining sector — ESG, the acronym and catchphrase for environmental, sustainability and governance principles that have skyrocketed almost overnight to the top of most mining companies’ priorities, and dominated discussion at the conference.