It’s often noted that mining has been much slower than other industries to change and modernize.
But at The Northern Miner’s recent Progressive Mine Forum event in October, it wasn’t the technology gap that keynote speaker George Hemingway identiﬁed as the biggest risk to mining’s future.
“We are at a time when the mining industry seeks to transform, a time unlike any other in centuries, where we have the technology, we have the will, we have the tools, we have the knowledge,” said Hemingway, a partner at innovation consultancy Stratalis. “And we have a potential problem – a challenge that needs to be overcome in order to reach (mining’s) vision of the future.”
That challenge, Hemingway said, is trust: “Trust is the new competitive advantage.”
The rules of business are changing. Whereas in the past, all companies had to do was make money, proﬁtability isn’t enough anymore.
Trust is not something the mining industry currently enjoys.
This is seen, for example in the great lengths Apple has gone to separate itself from the mining industry in order to build trust, by attempting to replace mined metals in its products.
“They’re the hero of the story – not us. And the problem is that the mining industry gives them plenty of ammunition.”
All natural resource industries face the trust challenge, and Hemingway gave some examples of what some leaders are doing about that.
Amid widespread movements to reduce and, in future, eliminate carbon-based fuel, the CEO of Shell – one of the world’s largest petroleum producers – declared a couple of years ago that his next car would be electric.
“Why?” Hemingway asked. “Trust. Because you’ve got to rebuild trust, you’ve got to part of that wave of change or that wave will hit you and knock you over.”
In mining, companies like BHP Billiton are talking about social value alongside proﬁtability, while Vale has launched its PowerShift electriﬁcation strategy to reduce GHG emissions and energy use.
“But it’s going to take more than just 1, 2 or 3 big mining companies to make the difference… because the price that’s being paid is the price of decades, the price of perception, and the price is going to require all of the industry to come together to make change, because what is valued has changed,” Hemingway said.
In a future where it’s not enough that the world needs the products of mining, and in which trust in necessary to do business, the industry will have to embrace a search to deﬁne its societal value in order to thrive.
Finally, a quick note on some changes here – as we congratulate Marilyn Scales on her retirement after an incredible 45 years with CMJ, I’d like to ofﬁcially welcome Magda Gardner to the team. A mining engineer by training, we are thrilled to have Magda join us as news editor. You can drop her a line at email@example.com.