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External Drivers Shaping the Future of the Mining Industry and Implications for Skills and Community Resilience

7 December 2021

This research identifies critical external drivers – such as climate change, the critical minerals rush, geo- and socio-political instability – outside of the industry’s control that will shape how mining operations are developed and managed in the future. 

  • Mining communities are becoming more vulnerable: extreme weather events and rising temperatures driven by climate change are exacerbating geo- and socio-political volatility thereby eroding resilience and increasing vulnerability of local communities. This instability will likely impede companies’ ongoing investment in social performance as the status of operating in challenging regions becomes more uncertain.  

  • Decreased community resilience increases risk to mining companies: Linked to this is the effect this will have on the operational stability of mining companies, and the knock-on risk to companies’ social licence to operate.  

  • The critical minerals rush may overwhelm community and even company capacity to develop mines safely, without conflict, and to the benefit of stakeholders: Mining’s challenge is to demonstrate the value of the industry to governments, investors and increasingly connected communities as it navigates the super cycle driven by demand for critical metals and minerals. Companies will proactively need to integrate social performance outcomes into business and environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies. 

  • Covid has caused society to care more, and demand more of businesses: Covid-19 underscored that society most cares about safety, community, social impact, and the environment. This is something that has been seen across all sectors and has led public leaders, civil society, and capital investors to increase scrutiny on ESG matters and, for mining companies, to contribute more to community resilience. 

  • Mining companies must define/refine their community resilience strategies to deliver on ESG responsibilities more publicly and explicitly: Doing so will allow companies to meaningfully foster the skills that communities need to succeed in climate-threatened and technology-enabled economies, while securing competitive advantage among investors, governments, and downstream customers who increasingly value sustainability. 

  • Industry-external drivers that will shape the future of mining will disproportionately affect women: Extreme weather and rising temperature, worsening water stress, scarcity, conflict and geo- and socio-political instability, and the critical minerals rush will have outsized impacts on, and further marginalise, women who generally rely more on natural resources for care giving, subsistence and income.