How Can Mining Companies Ensure They Can Measure The Data Required For ESG Reporting And Compliance?
By Mathews Varughis, Head of Sales for Australia & New Zealand at Paessler
As the world gets ready for net zero, demand for raw materials is set to soar. The energy transition to renewables presents unique challenges for mining companies, many of which will need to increase their output to meet the demand required to achieve the transition. The real challenge is that mining companies will need to grow faster and more cleanly than ever.
Mining is a long lead-time, highly capital-intensive sector with regular price fluctuations and unavoidable bottlenecks as demand outstrips supply. Factors like price volatility and the ability to meet carbon targets create uncertainty around the large up-front capital investments required for mining operations.
The changing dynamics surrounding ESG
In recent years, the prevalence of the term, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) has surged, propelled by the pursuit of responsible investments and the goal to reach net zero carbon by 2050. Many investors will only align their capital with mining companies exhibiting robust ESG practices and mining companies will need to be more proactive in adapting their operations to align with the changing dynamics surrounding ESG.
The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain across the mining industry, as well as the growing popularity of autonomous vehicles, and drones, are some of the technology trends impacting the ESG theme in mining.
As government regulators in Australia continue to drive a range of ESG-related policies, some mining companies have come under the spotlight. While some mining companies are making significant strides toward decarbonisation, others are using deceptive marketing tactics known as “greenwashing” to improve their image and cover up their expansion plans for fossil fuels. ASIC has called out some companies for misinformation about their realistic ability to reach carbon-neutral targets.
ESG reporting for mining companies
While the majority of mining companies presently disclose their ESG practices through standalone sustainability reports, separated from financial reporting, this paradigm is poised for potential transformation and understanding what is expected of them will be key. There are, therefore, some essential considerations for mining companies in the sphere of ESG reporting.
Developing an ESG framework can help mining companies assess their sustainability policies, performance and progress. It will help them identify and mitigate factors that contribute to negative consequences and pursue actions to manage their ESG performance.
However, as the old saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Therefore, mining companies need to monitor their infrastructure for things like power consumption, water usage and waste to ensure that their environmental footprint and, therefore, ESG credentials can be improved.
Improving a mining company’s ESG credentials
Improving the environmental footprint of mining companies isn't solely about reviewing a company's exploration, extraction and refinery processes. Companies in this sector must also look at investing in the latest digital technologies throughout their organisation. This includes the hardware and software their employees use every day to ensure they are not contributing negatively to carbon emissions.
Many in the mining industry display a clear disconnect between their sustainability practices and digital transformation journeys. It would be advisable for all companies operating in the mining sector to embark on a sustainable IT strategy journey in the next year if they have not already done so.
Sustainable IT strategies
Through a comprehensive reevaluation of sustainable IT strategies and technology expenditure, mining companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable values and secure a competitive advantage in an increasingly environmentally conscious world.
The case for balancing ESG metrics with ambitious growth targets is not just a moral imperative; it's an economic necessity. Mining firms that proactively integrate ESG considerations will be more resilient in the face of volatility, better positioned to seize emerging opportunities and enjoy more robust relationships with stakeholders. This approach transforms ESG from a compliance-driven chore into a competitive advantage that enhances a mining company's reputation and market standing.
A strong focus on sustainable IT will help increase revenue growth, optimise costs and prepare for potential legislative interventions, including carbon emissions taxes. While ESG performance measurement is still evolving, the journey ahead is clear and action is needed now. Mining company C-suites and investors must take a long-term perspective and have the courage to invest in sustainable growth that delivers revenue, economic profit and shareholder returns.