Mining is key for a sustainable future but is struggling with sustainability

Mining Weekly
May 2, 2024

The mining industry is struggling with environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting requirements despite playing a key role in a more sustainable future, research shows. A 74% rise in ESG disclosure requirements globally over the last four years has dented investor confidence, according to accounting and advisory firm BDO’s 2024 Mining Report.

The impact is being felt across all industries, with 71% of investors citing the inconsistency and incompleteness of data as the most significant barrier to ESG-related investments. Within mining, only 36% of companies were disclosing their energy intensity by volume of ore mined as of October 2022. Similarly, most mining players only provide general corporate reporting on ESG, rather than site-specific disclosures.

The Global Sustainability Standards Board, a standard-setting body, has tried to address such issues with 25 mining industry-specific topics in its Global Reporting Initiative Sector Programme. Its mining sector standards were released in early 2024 and come into effect from January 2026. However, the mining sector will likely require more than just a set of standards to fully comply with ESG reporting requirements.

“ESG reporting will require a substantial investment in artificial intelligence technologies, carbon dioxide emissions calculation and software for collecting data,” says Matt Crane, a partner in BDO’s Natural Resources and Energy team.

Carbon taxes

Another ESG-related issue for mining is the rise of carbon taxes, which are already in place across 27 countries and under consideration in five more. Because of the energy required for extracting and processing ores, carbon taxes can have a big impact on mining profitability. Mining companies can reduce ther liaibility by drawing power from renewable sources, with global use of renewables for mineral extraction due to see an 8.4% compound annual growth rate between 2022 and 2032.

Meanwhile, carbon taxes will also bolster demand for low-carbon technologies such as batteries and wind turbines, providing an upside for mining companies specialising in energy transition metals. Mineral demand from clean energy technologies is expected to double by 2040 under existing sustainable development policy frameworks, based on a 2021 analysis by the International Energy Agency.

The key for mining industry success in the coming decades will be to take advantage of this boom while navigating an increasingly complex ESG reporting landscape.

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The Institute for Sustainability Africa (INŚAF) is an independent multi-disciplinary think tank and research institute founded in Zimbabwe in 2010 with the Vision to advance sustainability initiatives for Africa.