Mining for the Future

COVID-19 did not generate positive results for many industries. Mining was one that survived – and thrived – in fact, 2020 proved a banner year for the industry, according to PwC’s Global Mine report that performed an in-depth analysis of the world’s top 40 mining companies.

“Mining is one of the few industries that emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic economic crisis in excellent financial and operational shape,” according to the report. “The Top 40 mining companies have never been in a stronger financial position to make a big, bold pivot towards the future.” 

Now, in the process of transitioning to a sustainable, low-carbon economy, metals mining is taking on increasing importance.

“This industry will lead us into the bold new future,” said Saint Jovite Youngblood, owner of Youngblood Metals Mining.

Some organizations have taken a deep dive into understanding the use of those metals, particularly with the increased use of those metals for creating electric vehicles.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, has taken a look at not only the metals that are used and how they are used, but also at the evolution of the battery and the transition to using less cobalt in modern versus antiquated electric batteries.

“Both the high price of cobalt and negative impacts of mining it moti- vate efforts to reduce the amount of cobalt in batteries. In 2018, lithium-ion batteries averaged 28 kilograms of cobalt per 100 kWh across all battery end uses and chemistries. This amount is expected to decrease by 60 percent by 2035,” according to the findings.

There are some distinctions that seem to be mistakenly used interchangeably, which muddies the increasingly prevalent conversation around environmental responsibilities with regard to mining. 

“Several materials in lithium-ion batteries are critical, but they are neither rare-earth nor precious metals. These materials include lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt, aluminum, copper, and graphite. Some are used primarily in other industries. For example, the production of stainless steel accounts for nearly 80 percent of global production of nickel. However, batteries consume more than half of the global production of lithium and cobalt,” according to the organization’s Electric Vehicle Batteries: Addressing Questions about Critical Materials and Recycling Fact Sheet.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues should take a front seat for the top 40, according to PwC, because that sort of organisational strategy can provide a path to sustainable outcomes by building a path to trust.

As the world transitions and becomes more focused on sustainability, so must companies transition and begin seeing ESG as something more than just “another box to tick” because “ESG represents one of the mining industry’s most significant opportunities for long-term value creation, building trust and sustainable growth,” per PwC.

Since 2020 was kind to the mining industry, PwC argues that mining companies are perfectly primed for “genuine, transformational change” and have more solid footing to pivot toward growth and long-term value than other industries of which the pandemic-ridden economy was not so kind. There is a need to engage with stakeholders, set regular targets, report results transparently, and continually refine the process, according to the company. 

It is an exciting time for the industry,” said Saint Jovite Youngblood. “Humanity is making its way to a more sustainable future, which is good for the earth, also good for investors.”