Reconnecting mines, markets & consumers
During April, the editorial theme for The Intelligent Miner is ‘reconnecting mines, markets & consumers’. However, I’m now questioning my choice of verb; were they ever really connected in the first place…?
Regardless of the conjunction used, there is clearly a need to bridge the gulf that companies in the mining space find between themselves, organisations that consume their products and end users.
Historically, all three parties have distanced themselves. One could argue that it is a chicken and egg situation: poor social and environmental practices are not something that any individual or company wants to be associated with. However, the products of mining are critical in our daily lives and, with little or no way of determining where materials come from and, when cost is the king concern, it’s all too easy to draw a veil over dubious production processes.
In fact, they provide reason for consumers and end users to distance themselves even further, and so the cycle perpetuates. Until recently, there was little impetus for change.
And then the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse happened. The legacy of this tragedy is not just improved tailings management practices, it’s a heightened focus on environmental social governance at every level of mining. Because digital technologies can now track and trace metals (and measure their footprint) from the moment they leave the ground to when they land in someone’s hand as a mobile phone, there really are no excuses for wasteful, unfair or corrupt practices anywhere within a mine’s value chain.
But with greater transparency comes judgement. And the industry must be ready for that, whether good or bad. The way in which mining companies conduct their business, how they engage with communities, interact with the environment and the image they project to consumers and end users will determine their reputation and, in the future, access to markets.
It’s important to think about how miners market themselves to these stakeholders through advertising, branding, media coverage... While end users are a little slower to engage than consumers (old habits die hard) we must remember that reputation also influences investors, policy makers, potential new recruits... All of these are vital in sustaining the mining industry.
There are plenty of companies who realised this five, 10, even 15 years ago and have management plans in place. But there are many more for whom this is still a matter of insignificance.
This is not just a challenge, it’s an opportunity, so let’s talk about how to get it right.
Coming next month... New ways with construction & engineering