Last week, Amnesty International provided a timely reminder of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks for the mining industry, as it scrambles to meet the mineral demands of the energy transition.
In its report, Powering Change or Business as Usual, Amnesty detailed a pattern of forced evictions, crop-burning and other human rights abuses associated with the mining of cobalt by multi-national miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Congo is home to half the world’s cobalt reserves, and currently accounts for 70 per cent of global production. And, with the International Energy Agency projecting cobalt demand from re-chargeable battery manufacturing to increase 1,000 per cent by 2030, the Congo is an important player.
I was relieved to read that none of the companies named by Amnesty were Australian. But, unfortunately, incidents like those reported damage the reputation of the industry, globally.
With Western Australia also abundant in critical minerals, we have the opportunity for a massive expansion in mining over the next decade. But, to maintain social licence and attract the workforce it needs in an increasingly tight labour market, the industry cannot rely on having the positive purpose of supplying the energy transition, alone.
The industry must be seen to be operating to high sustainability and ESG standards in pursuit of this purpose, which includes decarbonising its own activities and delivering positively for local communities.
This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.