Is social media important for mining companies?
The short answer is yes.
Social media has become the quintessential networking tool for people, businesses and organizations alike. It has the power to connect brands to their consumers, inform audiences on current topics and trends, and engage audiences to interact and discuss opinions. Whether we like it, use it, or just don’t understand it, social media can be useful for everyone—even mining companies.
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Mining companies have notoriously shied away from public exposure pertaining to mining activities. However, like it or not, much of the information that circulates about the mining industry’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance takes the form of pictures, tweets and infographics.
According to the annual “tracking the trends” report by Deloitte, mining companies need to start getting serious about social media.
“Simply put, public attention spans are diminishing and mining companies that want to tell their side of the story will need to do so a lot more succinctly. That means considering ways to leverage mobile communications and social media in an effort to foster two-way dialogues with investors, industry analysts, community organizations, media and the public at large.”
Unfortunately, the public’s perception of the mining industry is not good--not even a little bit. However, networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn give mining companies a voice to change that.
“Given the weight of public opinion, miners understand the imperative to engage in the public arena if they hope to influence government policy and contribute to a better political/social climate. This imperative goes beyond releasing official reports detailing the contributions they are making to society. It also extends to taking more active roles working with industry associations, better leveraging social media to get their messages out and aligning remuneration policies with their stated goals,” according to the Deloitte report.
Social media also allows companies to educated and engage the general public in order to raise a better understanding of how the industry works and why it’s so important. Companies like Newmont Mining, Anglo American and Rio Tinto are prime examples of how social media can effectively be used to inform and promote projects and initiatives.
Community and government engagement
Social media is increasingly becoming the primary channel through which communities engage, discuss and organize their activities pertaining to a particular operation. By utilizing social media, companies can gain a better understanding of community concerns and how they are perceived, thus using that information to appropriately redirect their activities.
The same goes for building better government relationships. According to Deloitte, mining companies can strengthen their negotiating power by tangibly demonstrating the extent of their social and economic contributions.
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“Understanding the wider impact requires tools such as data analytics to capture social progress metrics and disclosing them through a range of reporting mechanisms, from formal sustainability reports through informal channels like social media.”
It also extends to taking more active roles working with industry associations, better leveraging social media to get their messages out and aligning remuneration policies with their stated goals.”
For mining companies to make ahead in future years, they are going to need to engage with governments and find new ways to communicate and collaborate.
Strategies to counter regulatory uncertainty, according to the Deloitte report, include:
• Working to build better government relationships
• Becoming more vocal in both industry association and through social media
• Measuring social impact
• Helping to set the policy agenda
• Better leveraging mobile technologies
Companies must go beyond simply observing social media and emerge themselves into the world of social networking and engage with the wider stakeholder community.
To stay competitive, mining companies need quality employees. What better way of finding them then through social media.
“Talent acquisition and access has changed in fundamental ways due to shifts in global talent markets, skills shortages, new ways of working and the growing importance of social media. To compete for talent in high demand, companies should treat recruiting like marketing, extend recruiting targets to new and more global talent pools, and use big data tools to locate and assess high-quality candidates,” according to the report.
Sites like LinkedIn have made it extremely easy for companies to promote job openings and provide an open and accessible platform of people around the world to apply.
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.
Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.
Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.
Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.
Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.
The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.
Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”
Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.
Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.
“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.
The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.
Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.
Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.
Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.