ESG and Mining

“ESG”, or measuring Environmental, Social, and Governance factors, has entered the lexicon of many industries, including mining, and given rise to a burgeoning taxonomy of frameworks and structures. This includes reporting standards (mostly currently voluntary) that may imply future regulatory control. As ESG is commonly used to measure the sustainability, environmental and societal impact of a mine or project, poor ESG performance can generate pressure from outside entities such as NGOs, civil society, and governments to hold mining companies accountable for impacts stemming from their operations – and demanding better performance and standards. Criticism is now much more rapid and vocal, and powerful shifts are motivated by social movements against unpopular projects. But to date, the most direct impact on mining companies is a rising expectation from investors to ensure their mining investments are viewed as responsible and sustainable – with a reduced “ESG risk” profile making investing more attractive (and vice-versa). SRI, or socially responsible investing, has progressed from a “negative screening” of stocks to exclude those thought to be unsuitable, to a more direct investor engagement with companies to review practices or policies (an example being the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative of 2019). Impact investing takes ESG further by demanding that projects generate positive social and environmental returns. The trade-off for higher positive impacts may be lower financial returns. Mining Footprint has created a table of Mining ESG Scales. We are keen to understand from the industry how management can drive change towards more positive ESG outcomes, perhaps even “Impact Mining”, whilst keeping project dynamics and finances on an even keel. Feel free to contact us to explore these, and other, aspects of mining in 2021.

Alternate Alternatives - Mining Responsibly

Mining Footprint believes we need a different way to think of alternatives to challenges facing the mining industry. Acknowledging alternatives courageously generates infinite alternative outcomes 

• But alternatives are often obliterated by dominant ways of knowing that exist in the modern world. We believe that no-one has the monopoly on knowledge. We seek to promote imagination and innovation whilst recognising that repetition and reproduction are our adversaries. Solutions and transformations may not follow well-used scripts and we value diversity of thought. 

• By using International Relations Theories and other methodologies we examine issues from wider perspectives to create new alternate strategies because we know that solutions may follow paths that are not yet known. 

 • Responsible mining is our mission and innovation, creativity, and imagination are our tools to create value for our clients and their projects

Wider Views: Foregrounding and Perspectivalism
Postcolonial Theory responds in many ways to help understand social and economic contexts in former colonies. The theory offers space to hear from marginalised perspectives, reveals different alternatives, and fosters new approaches to solve existing problems. Two applications, Foregrounding, (the assignment of importance), and Perspectivalism, (alternate viewpoint analysis), are applicable to the mining industry.

Mining Footprint Introduction

Why we work with mining, why we use International Relations Theory, and how we guide our mission to support responsible mining.

Awareness through Postcolonialism
The end of the colonial era left behind a number of conditions and constructs that can be examined by Postcolonial International Relations Theories. Why are some ex-colonies susceptible to poverty, "failed states", and the occurrence of human rights abuses? Why does resource nationalism occur? Postcolonialism responds to these questions by analysing the context of the modern world through the perspective of the former colonies. Colonialism itself, often motivated in the coloniser's quest for natural resources and underpinned by inequality between the colony and the coloniser, created strong dependencies and subservient actors. Colonial era laws set the modus operandi for mineral development and some echoes of these legislations exist today despite modernisation of sovereign laws. Mining companies need to be fully aware of the historical context of the countries where they operate and not unintentionally create dependencies and situations that allow detractors to cite neo-colonial criticism. In other words, mining companies need to think in terms of postcolonial theory. Postcolonial theory opens up important spaces and areas that may have been largely ignored or forgotten in the modern world. Highly useful methods and frameworks such as foregrounding (understanding the utmost importance of actors' views) and perspectivalism (viewing events and conditions from various actors' stances) allow a more encompassing analysis of the contexts in which mining projects are situated. The perception of the enrichment of the mining companies to the detriment of the host country is examined in terms of the response implemented by resource nationalism.

Narratives of Constructivism
Constructivism sets out to aid our understanding of multi-faceted "socially-constructed worlds" as systems. Sociological and philosophical aspects are incorporated into the analysis. Within the system, interactions between the actors are constrained and understanding change by human agency is central to Constructivism. The mutual constitution of the actors, including their identity, is set by their power and influence within the system which is an interconnected social world. Identity - constructed by perceptions of community, culture, politics etc, -is crucial and defines actions taken by whom, with whom, and for what purpose. The "lived experience" of actors allows the formation of a narrative which can dominate how a project is viewed in the social world. Over-printed by global lived experiences (or "mainstream megatrends") that focus on pollution, the desire for sustainability, and climate change concerns, and influenced by more localised concerns such as water resources, the modern mining industry often implements counter-narratives that strive to position the real benefits of the project to obtain the social license, or acceptance, from stakeholders. Examples within these narratives include the creation of local employment, good stewardship of the local environment and respect for culture, and the transition to renewable energy (plus the integration of the actual mining products into the global energy transition itself). Well-made, early narratives which include all actors can be effective. But slips, or mistakes, in the appraisal of the impacts of a project can create negative narratives that are extremely difficult to leave behind - especially when "good" and "bad" identities and actors are baked into the social construct. By considering the theory of Constructivism when setting out its stall to advance a project, mining companies can understand their position in the social world and learn what to expect from those actors who desire a different outcome.

Funnels of Materialism
Materialism as a theory frames the importance of property, economic power, and the presence of inequality. Marxist doctrines around exploitation weave a pattern through the theory as well as more modern theories of cultural hegemony (or "dominance") studying the phenomena of legitimacy and consent to dominate. Market-driven structures are juxtaposed and the identification of mining rights as property is highlighted. A mixture of hegemonic behaviour - commercial, legislative, and communal - opens a funnel of possibilities to generate conflicts around mining projects. This is exacerbated by the often transactional nature of agreements by mining companies to access land owned by communities. This relationship is more stable when deconstructed and remade as transformational. The wide-ranging, or pluralistic, interest in mining projects (both positive and negative) supports the study of mining through the International Relations Theory lens, and reveals the sometimes exponential growth of conflicts involving many actors with differing voices. Materialism forms part of this funnel of attention.....

Mirroring Liberalism
Liberalism in International Relations Theory expresses optimism over the use of institutions to mitigate competition between countries and resolve disputes. Am emphasis on mutual benefits, cooperation and collaboration fosters a sense of inclusiveness. Democratic Peace Theory (Liberalist theory) asserts democratic states are less conflict prone, specifically in relation to other democracies. Commercial Peace Theory (Liberalist theory) supports that free trade (including mining) fosters relations between countries and interdependencies making conflict less likely - effect of Globalisation. Institutionalism in mining presents a broad spectrum. From International Organisations (United Nations, World Bank), to mining industry umbrella organisations, to commodity specific associations. Focus points to support sustainable mining, maximise positive social impact and development legacies, minimise environmental damage, and integrate the industry into the renewable energy transition, are all promoted. Accrediting good practices and avoiding, or resolving, conflict is an institutional norm in mining which creates the infrastructure (meeting space) and skill sets to discuss (arbitrate) and resolve complex issues. Stakeholder communication and outreach is assisted. Cross-border projects promote regional collaboration. International Organisations help reform mining legislation in various countries. Liberalism in International Relations Theory is mirrored in the mining world. Optimism for mitigating competition (social, environmental, commercial) creates potential for resolving complex issues and minimising conflict through institutionalised processes.

Echoes of Realism
First in a series of videos discussing International Relations Theories (IRT) and their applicability to modern mining. This video deals with the traditionalist theory of Realism - or state-focused IRT. Jake Erickson and Mike Parker of Mining Footprint discuss what traditional Realism is and what we may see as "Echoes of Realism" in the modern mining industry where companies like to put on their "cloaks of nationality". The video complements our Social Constructs video (also available in our You Tube Channel).

Deconstructing the Deconstructed
Both International Relations Theories (I.R.T) and mining have undergone radical changes in their evolution that has required the examination of more complex issues in a holistic manner. I.R.T offer a wide range of explanations based on empirical evidence to examine complex, systemic issues that can be a powerful lens to analyse the modern mining world. Mike Parker and Jake Erickson of Mining Footprint Ltd. offer their views during the 2020 PDAC mining conference in this video.

Navigating the Mainstream Megatrends
Over the last 5 decades the "mainstream megatrends" have coalesced into a gigantic river current - pollution awareness, sustainability, energy transition, and recycling are all now expected traits and policies of modern companies to respond to the massive forces dominating the industrial world. Mining Footprint's video documentary analyses the origin of the Megatrends river as an introduction to our services to help companies navigate the currents and innovate and integrate changes for a more robust future.