Data can give teeth to a two-way dialogue between miners and stakeholders
Mining is the lifeblood of society today, providing the raw materials we use in everything from cutlery to cars and from mobile phones to the fertilisers needed to feed our expanding population. We, in the industry, know mining is fundamental to our modern way of life and presume that everyone else does too. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
In recent decades, society and its expectations have changed and there are a number of reasons:
- Access to information, via the internet, is widespread
- Climate change is now widely accepted and society expects companies to mitigate their impact
- Mining companies are adopting practices to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, move to carbon neutral and embrace the circular economy
- Energy and water supply are increasingly critical.
Demographics are changing. Millennials and Gen Z — who currently make up 38% of the global workforce (and 58% in the next decade)1 — expect companies to be ethical, sustainable, inclusive and to own up to mistakes. And they are not afraid to call out injustice or behaviour that doesn’t meet their values. Together with work-life balance and flexibility demands, it is important to understand these current and future stakeholders.
There has been a significant drop in those graduating from mining and geology degrees2. Mining is perceived as a risky industry with poor working conditions and a history of being damaging to the environment and society.
The industry must change the narrative. An example is the supply chain partnerships being agreed to ensure security of supply as well as supply from responsible and renewable sources. Another example is the long-term health, education, employment and economic benefits realised by the communities around mining sites.
The era of digital transformation is a driver and enabler of stakeholder engagement, as companies use data and insights to drive safety, sustainability, productivity and margin. Innovation brings new jobs and new skills requirements; basic operator skills are less essential, while skills in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and innovation are needed. As we engage with communities and governments, where job supply and security is a requirement of licence to operate, we will need humans to progressively work hand-in-hand with machines and we will need the skills that make us inherently human — emotional, social, creative and cognitive — to be nurtured.
What gets measured, gets done
The move from the traditional focus on shareholder value to stakeholder value is evident. Institutional investors are using public data aggregating platforms — such as Arabesque and Sustainalytics — to rate ESG performance. These investors see value in behaviour that leads to less risk and more reward and are becoming less willing to invest in companies that do not measure up.
Events such as the Samarco and Brumadinho tailings dam failures have catalysed the industry into action to find an alternative to traditional tailings storage and better communication with adjacent communities. And investors are creating their own tools, leveraging Earth observation data and platform technology, to independently monitor activities on the ground.
We are all in agreement that zero harm is the target. The UN Sustainable Development Goals — commonly referred to as the Global Goals — comprise 17 targets, including no poverty, good health and well-being, gender equality and affordable and clean energy. Formulated by world leaders in 2015, the Global Goals have given society and business a North Star for global development. Everyone has a role in delivering the Global Goals by 2030, not least mining.
Mining by its very nature is long-term but has traditionally been driven by the short-term goal of delivering shareholder value. Governments and communities now demand sustainability of their economies and mutual benefit from the mineral wealth. In response, we need to move from being mineral producers to resource stewards.
When miners view their purpose as being a benefit to all society, the network of stakeholders expands considerably. Stakeholders are now any person or party who, a) has an interest in the success or failure of the business, or b) can affect or be affected by the business. Mining stakeholders include those directly involved in the business; those impacted by proximity to the projects; and governments, regulators, professional bodies, scientific and academic bodies, and even broader society as consumers.
For effective stakeholder engagement, we need to understand who the stakeholders are, their expectations and attitudes, the networks in which they interact, their values and the value that can be genuinely delivered. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, are being used to understand stakeholder sentiment, disseminate information and communicate with stakeholders. Platforms such as Viamo enable the collection of community data where stakeholders are in control of the data they submit, engendering trust.
Proactive collaboration with stakeholders returns greater benefits at less cost than reactive activities to mitigate risk or tackle social unrest; where our statements of intent match the outcomes on the ground. What was once a one-way street, with miners informing investors, governments and communities of activities to maintain social licence to operate, is now a focus on co-creation.
Ask not what our miners can do for us, but what can stakeholders and miners do together? A systemic and networked approach is required. Objectives need to be known and success needs to be measurable — there is trust in ‘what gets measured, gets done’.
There is a growing understanding that mining isn't solely responsible for the impact to our environment and society from extracting natural resources; we all have a collective responsibility for demanding these minerals. Therefore, we have a collective responsibility to move towards global resource stewardship.
We are all stakeholders.
1 Gilchrist, Karen. cnbc.com (2019). How millennials and Gen Z are reshaping the future workforce
2 Lucas, Jarrod. abc.net.au (2018). Skills shortage: Australia facing critical decline of new mining engineers
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Mining Journal Stakeholder Engagement is a platform for conversation between the mining industry and key stakeholders. The programme is designed to help set a practical path to better engagement, reduced risk and better practices.
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