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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       

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Reading list
Eight of the most interesting articles I've read on building trust
ICMM: Equivalency matters 
Aidan Davy makes the case for simplification of mining standards in a bid to reduce the 'Ecolabel babel' effect for consumers and end users
WIM UK: How consumers are pushing the sustainability agenda in mining  
Great panel discussion hosted by Women in Mining UK. Explains why consumers often misunderstand the value that the mining sector plays in their lives and how this is starting to change
Karen Chovan: Changing perceptions about mining 
I basically nodded all the way through this article. I think everyone who works in mining will relate to what Karen says here. If you have time, listen to the podcast she mentions too
Deloitte: Closing the trust deficit in mining
Andrew Swart and Ikram Al Mouaswas examine why there is a lack of trust in the mining industry and how ESG initiatives could help to close it
World Gold Council: positive impacts of mining
I'm leaving this here for all you non-miners. Because society is too often spoon-fed bad stories about mining and never the good stuff
World Economic Forum: Data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit
Based on the findings of a report from the Responsible Mining Foundation. The bottom line is that even the best performing mining companies still fall considerably short of society's expectations
Hexagon TV: The future of mining with George Hemingway
George was one of the first people I heard speak about the need for greater trust in the mining industry and he still explains it the best. One to watch...
Clear Creek Digital: The importance of branding for mining companies
An oldie but a goodie... Trevor Hall explains why careful attention to branding can be of huge value in a consumer-conscious world 
Last month on The Intelligent Miner
We explored mine supply & value chains
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