Sustainability and ESG front and centre issues at Melbourne mining forum
The high profile International Mining and Resources Conference kicked off this week in Melbourne. All the major miners were present with a busy agenda covering every aspect of mining, from exploration to investment, production to optimisation, through to new technologies.
The forum opened with more than 6,000 delegates, a 45 percent increase from last year. It was standing-room only in the main plenary session as case studies and open discussion on global mining principles that contribute to sustainable development and growth we discussed.
Mining superstars including Rio Tinto’s CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, Newmont’s Gary Goldberg, MMG’s Geoffrey Gao, Graham Kerr from South32 and Sandeep Biswas, Newcrest Mining spoke on key themes including the impact of digitisation in mining, the importance of sustainability issues, and the use of water in mining. Indeed, BHP CEO Andrew McKenzie said that the management of water resources was the second most important issue facing the world after global warming.
These vital issues, together with investing now for future growth and replacing reserve inventory to support the development of new assets, will be critical for the Australian and Global mining sector in the next five years.
Consumer demand for metals and mining end use products is rapidly changing; we have seen that in the growth of demand for minerals such as lithium, a key component in batteries. And this is only one example.
The optimisation of assets and a focus on debt reduction are the two key strategies for securing a positive future for Australian mining in 2019. Many sector leaders have been addressing these for the best part of a decade. While there is a logic to that, it means the mining sector is now on the cusp of new investment for future growth. It needs to replace, or add reserve inventories, or indeed develop new assets.
Many in the sector are now recognising this need as the industry undergoes significant cultural and structural change. What’s more, technology and collaboration are the vital parts of achieving a smooth transformation in a sector that is rapidly embracing innovation and dealing with the challenges of disruption on a global scale.
I see enormous potential in the digitisation of mining to help achieve efficiencies and reduce costs, at the same time improving safety. We have only just begun to understand what can be delivered through the uptake of technologies such as drones, autonomous vehicles – including autonomous ships – and 3D printing as well as ways to share intellectual property within the sector.
As our own Richard Boele Managing Partner KPMG Banarra also makes clear, the rise of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) as a driver of change in the sector is now firmly on the table in ENR boardrooms.
It’s encouraging that mining sector leaders are retooling production in mines, and at the same time, recognising that environmental challenges, such as water and fuel usage, point to the areas where rapid improvement is needed.
We are in the early stages of both disruption and innovation in the Australian and global mining that, with the right collaboration, can help address the broader challenges the world faces, as well as deliver shareholder value through more efficient and technology-driven miners.