[How-to] Effectively Engage in Community Relations
Maintaining healthy relationships has never been more apparent then in the mining industry. With the majority of operations consisting in foreign lands, the need for mining companies to keep continuous rapport with local communities is imperative for success.
A study by the University of Queensland recently concluded the costs associated with protests can result in $20 million a week in delayed production. The author of the report goes on to assert a community conflict has the capability of costing a company $100 million a year.
The cold hard truth is community relationships matter.
To avoid losses, mining companies must find ways to not only engage with local communities but be proactive.
According to the Ontario Mining Association, companies can harvest healthy relationships by having open dialogue to address concerns and questions.
“This approach builds understanding and trust, while helping to identify opportunities for making a positive difference in people’s lives,” the OMA website states. “The key is to improve socio-economic circumstances and stimulate a diversified local economy that will flourish throughout the life of the mine and well beyond.”
Anglo American for example, one of the largest mining companies in the world, has been wildly successful in engaging in communities. The company’s enterprise development programs have supported more than 48,000 SMES, 76,000 jobs and invested more than $100 million into communities in which they work in.
To cultivate relationships, mining companies must work with surrounding areas to provide jobs and enable income creation as well as possibly investing in infrastructure, education, vocational training, health care, cultural programs and environmental initiatives.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.