Rohitesh Dhawan, President & CEO,
International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)
"The critical shortage of metals is a very real risk that financial markets and governments have not appreciated."
What are the key themes that ICMM sees impacting the global mining industry in 2022?
The key theme is ESG, which is not only related to 2022, but is rather an evergreen topic that arguably has the most important influence on the industry's future. As a world, we have eight years to half greenhouse gas emissions if we are going to achieve the goals set out by the Paris accord. The technologies that will help us achieve these ambitious targets are all dependent on mining, and the industry must step up not only to supply the amount of metals and minerals the world needs, but also in the most responsible way possible so that we do not cause unintended harm in this dash for metals and minerals.
Are the net zero goals set by countries realistic?
If we do things the way we have already done them, we will never achieve net zero. Supply chains are becoming more circular, but it is not happening quickly enough. Take the case of lithium – at the moment, less than 1% of lithium is recycled globally. We know that extracting and processing lithium is water and carbon intensive, so we must get to a point where we are reusing as much of this critical mineral as possible. Some metals have been great in this respect – two thirds of copper produced on earth since the 1900s is still in productive use.
The critical shortage of metals is a very real risk that financial markets and governments have not appreciated. Typically, it takes between eight and 15 years to open a new large-scale copper mine. Currently we produce around 20 million t/y of copper, and by 2030 we need to produce approximately 30 million t/y of copper. If all the current copper projects come on stream exactly as planned, we will see an added 5 million t/y of supply, which would still leave a 5 million t/y deficit by 2030. When you open a mine, a new project can involve anywhere between 500 to 800 individual permits, and over the course of a project there can be approximately 5,000 different permitting obligations.
How has the issue of water stewardship gained significance for ICMM’s members in recent years?
Mining is water intensive. For example, extracting lithium from brines can consume nearly 2 million liters of water to produce one ton of lithium. There is however hope and optimism because there are new methods of extraction that are not as water intensive, such as from clay deposits. Although the numbers are striking, when you examine the amount of water the mining industry consumes relative to other sectors, it is actually still very small. For example in Chile, agriculture and livestock consumes 73% of water and mining consumes only 4%.
In jurisdictions such as Chile and Peru, mining regions have voted against the status quo in recent years. What could the industry do to improve local community development?
ICMM completed a Social Progress Report in 2021 where we assessed a range of countries where mining is a critical part of the economy, looking at indicators related to sustainable development goals such as health, education, jobs and basic social economic services. The data clearly shows that mining-dependent countries have achieved faster progress on social and economic indicators than non-mining dependent countries, and they tend to be healthier and wealthier. Chile was at the top as a well-governed country where the benefits of mining have been shared with the population, with salaries in the Chilean mining sector 70% higher than the country average. Approximately 90% of the mining industry's revenue in Chile remains in the country, going into taxes, worker payments and to suppliers.
Why then are we are still seeing vast amounts of discontent? As an industry we need to accept responsibility for the fact that people are hesitant to have new mining projects in their backyards, because evidently there have been enough negative environmental or social incidents to give people reasonable cause for concern
In May 2022, ICMM published a set of eight key social and economic variables against which all ICMM companies will report . Importantly, we are the first industry to collectively commit to disclosing tax payments. If you are a citizen of Chile or Peru, you deserve to know how much tax companies are paying in your country and how many jobs they create. We will also disclose the wage levels paid by companies and how they compare to the local living wage and the compensation of the CEO. Once this information is available, the industry and governments can have conversations with communities about whether they feel benefits are sufficient or whether more needs to happen from all sides