Newcrest Mining managing director and chief executive Sandeep Biswas has named technological disruption, climate change and changing societal expectations as the key challenges the industry must face up to.
Despite this testing environment, Biswas believes mining is well placed to take on these challenges if everyone in the industry uses a common and progressive approach
He says that success in the future is now, more than ever, about having a strong purpose, as well as solid commitments and strategies around ESG (environment, social and corporate governance), inclusion and diversity.
“I believe as an industry we have the power to lead that change. And at Newcrest, we will be doing that by creating a brighter future for people through safe and responsible mining,” Biswas, presenting at the Melbourne Mining Club, says.
With mining under pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations, Biswas says the industry has the ingenuity, technology and capability to meet this challenge.
He points to how the sector is quickly moving to remove diesel-powered vehicles from mines to eliminate carbon fuels from operations.
“I think this is becoming a real possibility in many instances, with the technical advances we are seeing. And strategic partnerships across sectors can bring forward investment in renewables and help us to get closer to zero carbon emission in our businesses,” Biswas says.
At Newcrest’s Cadia gold mine in New South Wales, for example, the company is currently a large consumer of coal powered electricity in the state.
However, Newcrest is moving towards using renewable sources at Cadia, in this case wind, for 40 per cent of its energy requirements from 2024 once a wind farm has been built.
Biswas says through Newcrest’s efforts and through general decarbonisation of the grid, it is realistic to aspire for Cadia to have minimal to zero power input from carbon sources in the future.
“If we bring in the technology advancements in electric vehicles, battery storage and other technologies, we can see a way to bring on-site emissions to zero or close to it,” Biswas says.
“These technologies will also allow us to eliminate diesel particulates underground and reduce energy intensity and the cost of ventilation.”
From a social perspective, Biswas thinks that local community partnering, from a capability and reputation viewpoint, will become a strategic competitive advantage in a company’s ability to acquire and develop an asset in the not-too-distant future.
He says Newcrest’s leadership team spends time in local communities because its members understand that on-the-ground, frontline relationships are the most important the company can have.
Newcrest’s experience at the Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea has been a standout example of improving community engagement for the company.
Biswas concedes that Newcrest’s relationship with local landholders and community, as well as the provincial government, at Lihir was difficult when he started with the company.
“Much of the money that had been destined for good works in the community was being wasted due to poor governance and execution. And the community had little to show for the many millions that had been spent on well-intentioned endeavours over the years,” Biswas explains.
“Over the past seven years, and it has been a long process, we have worked on rebuilding relationships with government and community stakeholders. We have not had a community disruption to the operation for six years.
“We have new compensation, relocation and benefits sharing agreements with the mining lease area landholders. We have a new governance regime for the distribution of funds, and Newcrest and a broader range of community stakeholders have a seat at the table.”
For Newcrest to do the things it wants to do, including delivering these strategies and positively impacting society, Biswas says it needs access to the full suite of talent within its workforce.
Newcrest targets employees from all walks of life: technical and non-technical, creative, numerate, from different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Biswas says Newcrest needs to be able to tap into new perspectives and harness the richness of diversity of thought.
“The bigger view of diversity drives what I like to call ‘uncommon sense’ innovations, by looking at things from different angles and talking to people inside and outside the business who do things differently; people who we don’t normally talk or listen to as much as we ought to,” he says.
“Many of our breakthroughs can then just quietly happen through the engine room of bottom-up innovation. From our people.
“A lot is said about diversity – but I have come to the realisation that inclusion is probably more important, insofar as it is only through true inclusion can we get true diversity.
“An inclusive workforce in which people have a sense of belonging and feel able to contribute their best is more likely to be diverse.”
From an operational perspective, Newcrest plans to grow by focusing on traditional methods: exploring, building new mines and expanding existing ones.
The company will also increase its investment in innovation and digital technology to guide this growth.
Biswas says Newcrest continues to apply and extend its competitive capabilities through innovation and technology to capture new value, sustainably.
“For example, today, we have collaboratively developed high temperature explosives and remote handling equipment that can be used in 150-degree temperature environments,” Biswas says.
“We have adapted high precision, underground drilling and blasting techniques that can potentially remove the need for undercut levels in block caving.
“This could materially drop the establishment cost of our future block caves. We have exploration technologies, analysis and big data processes that help target new exploration discoveries under deep cover.
“We have leveraged technology used in other industries such as agriculture and defence to mineral exploration.”
Biswas believes these innovations and digital capabilities have played a big part in how the company looks today. And will continue to do so as the industry decarbonises and the world moves towards a zero carbon future.