EY's top global mining risk no surprise

ENVIRONMENTAL, social and governance risk has been rated the highest concern for mining companies in 2023, much as it was for 2022 according to a survey by business services firm EY.
EY's top global mining risk no surprise EY's top global mining risk no surprise EY's top global mining risk no surprise EY's top global mining risk no surprise EY's top global mining risk no surprise

The survey of mining and metals executives found ESG impact was felt across every part of the business as the issue became a priority for key stakeholders.

Water stewardship is the top ESG risk for 76% of survey respondents as climate change and water scarcity concerns escalate.

The rest of the top 10 risks, after ESG, are geopolitics; climate change; license to operate; costs and productivity; supply chain disruption; workforce; capital; digital and innovation; and new business models.

EY global mining & metals leader Paul Mitchell said it was becoming more complex to manage ESG risk.

"Miners who get it right can get an edge on competitors in many ways - from accessing capital, to securing license to operate, attracting talent and mitigating climate risk," he said.

The study also highlighted rising concerns around workplace culture.

Bullying and harassment are endemic and tied to ongoing issues around a lack of diversity, inclusiveness and respect.

In Australia the issue has become particularly relevant around fly-in, fly-out workforces.

"The sector needs to do more to improve health, safety and wellbeing," Mitchell said.

"A balanced approach to managing both critical risks and foundational workplace safety and wellbeing can help companies build a holistic, robust approach."

Global conflict and ongoing disruption are also causing miners top rethink their traditional operating and business models.

Geopolitics has risen to number two in the ranks. The fact is global volatility will likely become the norm, driven by changing governments in key markets, competition between key economies and a growing tide or resource nationalism.

"We see evidence that governments are trying to fill revenue gaps created through the COVID-19 pandemic with new or increased mining royalties," he said.

"For example, Chile plans to introduce copper royalties and, in Australia, the Queensland government has already increased royalties on coal.

"For mining and metals companies, the ability to quickly assess the impact of these changes, as well as different alliances, trade flows and governments on business decisions will be critical."

The study shows miners have become better at managing climate risks, however, there are still areas to improve.

It finds too few miners are taking action to minimise the physical risks of climate change, which may threaten operations.

"Many mining and metals companies have committed to highly ambitious decarbonisation targets and a sharper focus on reporting emissions, but 2023 will reveal whether the sector is on the trajectory to net zero," Mitchell said.

Licence to operate, which was once the biggest risk for miners, came in at number four.

However, LTO has become much more complex with miners facing different LTO expectations, including building liveable communities and forging trusted relationships with Indigenous communities.

"It is critical mining companies go beyond doing what's merely required by law," Mitchell said.

"It's time to commit to furthering truth and reconciliation. Ultimately, reframing LTO as a way of creating long-term value can have a positive impact on the company's brand."

Digital innovation and new business models are creating both opportunity and threats.

Mining and metals executives surveyed said data mining and automation, as well as the introduction of an ESG platform to track metrics and reporting, would be the focus of digital investment over the next one to two years.

Digital and data will play an important role in helping miners meet ESG requirements.

The study does, however, find that many companies are failing to make the most of the opportunity.

"We still see some miners taking a siloed approach to implementing technology," Mitchell said.

"An integrated, business-led approach to digital transformation can identify more opportunities to solve some of miners' biggest challenges, including ESG, climate risk, productivity and costs."

New business models may also allow miners to reposition for a changing future, with many companies considering the benefits of plans to rationalise, grow and transform.

"Companies that scrutinise and shift business models now can get an edge on competitors as demand and expectations change," Mitchell said.