G7 Event - Importance of Mining to Society
On 11th June, the Critical Minerals Association was delighted to host an event at Cornwall House, Falmouth, on the key role mining has to play in delivering the green industrial revolution. Our very own Jeff Townsend moderated the livestreamed discussion with:
John Murray, Founding Principal of Swann Group; and
Lucy Crane, Co-Chair of CMA Perception of Mining Group, Senior Geologist at Cornish Lithium
“We have to understand that mining underpins the infrastructure of our society. Everything that people use, consume, is mined or extracted. Yet this fundamental fact, familiar to anyone in mining, is not understood by a whole generation who are being persuaded by negative social media and NGO campaigns that mining is bad, carbon intensive, dirty and often socially irresponsible.” John Murray, Swann Group
Highlights from the speakers:
Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge we face. The green energy transition is crucial to minimise our impact on the planet but it cannot happen without critical minerals. We all have to take responsibility for the green transition; the public needs to consider where the metals and minerals in their smartphones, laptops and everyday items come from. Mining companies need to operate to the highest environment, social and governance (ESG) standards to extract critical minerals sustainably so that collectively, we can deliver the green industrial revolution in a just way.
The public’s negative perception of mining threatens the delivery of this green transition. Lack of understanding surrounding the importance of mining is evident in the sharp decline of students enrolling in geoscience university courses. Lucy Crane suggests using chemistry and geography lessons to educate young people about how mining fits into their lives and to increase the understanding of where things come from and what impact they are having. After all, mining is arguably one of the industries which can have the biggest impact on the energy transition.
For mining to be a successful enterprise that positively contributes towards combating climate change, the mining industry needs to take steps to alter its relationship with society to not only change perception of mining but also attract young talent. John Murray outlined six key challenges faced by mining:
Mining’s relationship with society
The mining industry has been unable to land a shared, coherent image of the industry that dispels archaic and negative stereotypes furthered by incidents such as Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge caves. Collectively, the mining industry needs to reshape the narrative by highlighting mining’s key role in green technologies. Society’s desire for a cleaner, greener world often ignores the fact that metals used in green technologies and the modern world (including phones and tablets) are all made up of metals and minerals that have to be mined.
A lack of external investment
Investment is becoming increasingly harder to secure and traditional investors are placing greater weighting on ESG. It is imperative that the mining industry collaborates to benefit communities in which it operates.
The mining industry needs to embrace incremental technological change: developing new technologies is essential to make the industry cleaner, greener and more sustainable. Large miners who fail to adapt will be outperformed by smaller, more agile companies who use new, efficient, greener technologies which lower risk and offer faster returns on investment.
Miners need to recognise that developing countries will increasingly seek to renegotiate agreements and increase their revenues and self-sufficiency. Expectations around investment in local facilities, talent and retention of wealth are increasing. Host governments will be under increasing pressure to negotiate more favourable deals with miners as people are using social media to compare their standard of living on the global stage.
A lack of diverse thinking
Diversity, in terms of gender, ethnicity and neurodiversity, has historically been poor in the mining industry. For example, only 10% of board members in LSE and AIM listed mining firms are women. Diverse thinking and approaches to tackling problems are crucial in keeping the industry relevant as new skillsets emerge in IT, analytics and automation.
As negative perception of mining is perpetuated by social media, the industry is failing to attract young high potential candidates who prefer industries that are perceived as 'cleaner'. Experienced talent is retiring, and those that are laid off during cyclical downturns do not find the industry appealing to return to. Mining needs to attract the next generation through delivery of value and purpose and provision of a good work life balance.
John is the founding principal of Swann. With more than 40 years' experience in natural resources and executive search, John has an international reputation for adding value to companies, projects and individuals through his confidential advice. John's experience has convinced him that diverse ways of thinking in leadership teams have a direct impact on company performance, making him a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion.
John is also the Chairman of Argo Natural Resources the commercialisation partner of the University of Leicester, bringing to market a revolutionary chemistry and process to e-waste, mined ore concentrate and other high value feedstock. This is a viable alternative to traditional pyrometallurgical and potentially toxic hydrometallurgical processes, and challenges the status quo of effectiveness and efficiency.
Lucy is a senior geologist at Cornish Lithium. She holds an MSc in Mining Geology from the Camborne School of Mines and a master’s degree in Earth Sciences from the University of Oxford. Prior to joining Cornish Lithium, Lucy worked as an exploration geologist for Altus Strategies, planning and implementing exploration strategies for base and precious metals projects up to drill stage in Africa. She is now applying these skills to Cornish Lithium’s exploration programme. Part of her role at Cornish Lithium is to foster collaboration with other industry and academic partners to accelerate the exploration programme through innovation and ESG best practice.
Lucy has a keen interest in furthering the interests of young mining professionals and in promoting the mining industry to students, and sits on the committee of both the Young Mining Professionals and Women in Mining (UK). Translating her passion for the green energy transition and educating the public about mining, Lucy co-chairs CMA’s Perception of Mining Group and actively engages in inspiring a new generation of environmentally responsible mining professionals.
Written by Olimpia Pilch, CMA Business Development & Communications Associate