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Mining as part of society 

The past couple of months have seen us explore the way in which the mining industry relates to natural resources and the environment. The next step is, of course, to bring people into the mix. To look at the way mining companies serve and participate in society, their ability to influence change, and the industry as a community in itself. 

Everyone is a mining stakeholder, whether they realise it or not. The metals that the mining sector produces underpin modern living, from the cars we drive to the computers on which international banking systems run and the cans in which food and drinks are packaged. Society’s usage of metals is so pervasive that today it's virtually unavoidable. It is the very reason that the mining industry exists.

Our participation in metals supply chains and loops, whether actively or passively, consciously or unconsciously and in various capacities - as consumers or end users, employees, host communities, recyclers… whatever - means that everyone has a right to better understand where metals come from, and how and by whom they are produced. 

What people do with that knowledge is another matter, but before we can make choices or take actions, we need to be informed. And, as things stand, that information is not readily available. To the average person, the production and supply of minerals and metals are not transparent. They are not accessible, understandable or even fully traceable yet in many cases.

This opacity is just one reason for the gross lack of trust in mining companies today; we see the physical impacts of mining processes, but there is a link missing between extraction and the value it delivers. 

This is a problem; society needs mining now more than ever and, to continue mining, the industry sure as hell needs society on its side. So, what to do?

There is no simple answer. Building bridges will take time and transparency. It requires better education for everyone, technologies and initiatives which untangle metal provenance, companies that speak openly and care about bettering their environmental and social performance and governance, even when the truth is less than ideal. It requires investors who ask hard questions and apply heart as well as head in their decision making, and new business models that challenge the norm and deliver different types of value for different groups. We need it all, and more. And we need it now.

With the help of one or two experts, I’m going to try and unpack this and surrounding issues on The Intelligent Miner this month. I’d love to hear your thinking too. How can the mining industry better serve society and vice versa? 


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Reading list
Eight interesting articles on mining and it's role in society
Swann Global: Mining's relationship with society 
The the first in an excellent series of articles on the importance of mining to society. This is based on Swann Group founder, John Murray's, June 2021 G7 presentation. Have a look at all six if you have time  
The Intelligent Miner: Consumerism and the mining industry, part 1
Elizabeth Freele and I had a great chat last year about the trust deficit in mining and how the rise of conscious consumerism could impact the industry's future  
Corporate Knights: What happens if Indigenous people say no to mining the minerals needed to run EVs?
Thoughtful piece by Mark Podlasly on why governments and miners need to ramp up their partnership game to enable the clean energy transition 
Northern Miner: Mining’s top ten ‘S’ trends in ESG for 2022
Rachel Dekker and Elizabeth Freele outline ten social trends that mining companies should take note of and take action on in 2022
Deloitte: Establishing a new paradigm for Indigenous relations
"There is enormous potential for the mining industry to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples in different countries to advance their business strategies and goals, particularly around critical mineral deposits". Yes Deloitte!
Mine Sustainability Modeling Research Group: Incorporating social risks into mine planning and design 
Why engineers need new tools to better incorporate social risk into mine planning. Links to an interesting paper too
ICMM: The secret to transforming mining into sustainable development? Governance
According to ICMM CEO, Ro Dhawan, and EITI Executive Director, Mark Robinson, good governance is the key to unlocking social progress through mining 
Good Organisations: Homo Economicus is Dead — Long Live Homo Cooperativus!
The wild card on this month's reading list and a reader recommendation (thanks Andy if you're reading!). This is not directly related to mining but throws up some interesting questions around corporate purpose and ethics 
Last month on The Intelligent Miner
We explored mining's relationship to the natural environment
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