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ESG challenges rise as top risk and opportunity

Global mining executives have listed environmental and social issues as both the major risks and opportunities in the industry, according to a report from EY.

The study surveyed global mining and metals executives between June and September 2021, and found environmental and social, decarbonisation and license to operate are the top three risks and opportunities across the industry.

A total of 25 per cent of respondents listed environmental and social issues as the number one risks, which EY stated shows miners and stakeholders are broadening their perspective to capitalise on the sustainable future.

Decarbonisation moved from fourth to second position in this year’s survey due to the importance of its integration within a mining company’s overall strategy.

License to operate, which topped the list for the last three years, remains important due to the opportunities that disruption in the mining sector presents.

EY stated that shareholder expectations are rapidly changing, with a focus on long-term value crucial to the future success of miners.

“While there were fears that the COVID-19 pandemic might slow global progress on sustainability measures, the opposite has been true,” EY global mining and metals leader Paul Mitchell said.

“Environment and social issues have emerged as a surprise top risk, which means miners need to think more broadly about which factors they consider; social impact, water management and biodiversity came through as strong areas of focus for 2022.

“As stakeholders continue to hold miners accountable for environmental and social practices, purpose, long-term value and sustainability are no longer add-ons to business as usual – they are themselves business as usual. In such an uncertain and shifting environment, we are likely to see greater use of data science, scenario planning and data modelling to guide more intelligent decisions and create differentiation.”

According to Mitchell, the pandemic has brought social inequalities to light which has pressured mining companies to take action in responsibly driving social equality in their operating regions.

EY anticipates that biodiversity’s importance in this space is also building.

“Miners that do more to help ensure the long-term, sustainable economic and social growth of the regions in which they operate can leave a positive legacy beyond the life of the mine,” Mitchell said.

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