Mining investors demanding sustainability
Mining company shareholders are demanding change from an industry whose reputation has been battered by deadly collapses of mine waste storage facilities in Brazil, and Rio Tinto’s destruction of sacred rock shelters in Australia, report Reuters.
Companies are responding with changes to the structure and skillset of their senior management - a shift investors and governance experts say is sorely needed to mitigate risk in an inherently hazardous industry.
“The level of understanding and capability at board level is insufficient at the moment in the mining sector, and it doesn’t yet in our view support the transition of these companies to best practice,” Andy Jones, metals and mining lead at investment manager Federated Hermes, said.
Brazil’s Vale SA - keen to show its dedication to safety and sustainability after two tailings dam failures in less than four years - recently announced the biggest shakeup in its board since it was privatised in 1997.
Seven of the 13 members of the new board set for approval this month have extensive experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues, up from five previously. The company has also added requirements for nominees to have experience in community relations.
AngloGold Ashanti last year appointed as a non-executive director a mining governance adviser to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Kojo Busia, after the board identified the need to increase its efficacy in ESG oversight, it told Reuters.
Barrick Gold also bolstered its ESG credentials with the appointment of World Bank executive director Anne Kabagambe to its board in November, highlighting her experience in international development.
Some miners have also begun tying executives’ and directors’ bonuses directly to measurable ESG outcomes. Rio Tinto has connected 15% of executives’ annual bonuses to ESG metrics for the first time.
Bonuses for the director of Vale’s executive board for safety are calculated based only on health, safety, and sustainability indicators.
But companies must also improve internal reporting and foster a culture of openness if the industry is to prevent a repeat of past mistakes, governance experts say.
“The remuneration is obviously key in terms of setting incentives, but that on its own doesn’t work unless the board is getting the quality of information and there is a spirit of independent thought and challenge,” said Joanna Hewitt, a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie in London who advises companies on corporate governance.
For boards to exercise proper oversight, directors need access to information that bypasses management, Daniel Smith, a governance advisor with CGI Glass Lewis, told Reuters last November.
To achieve that, a specialist heritage advisor reporting directly to the board could be appointed, or a board could have an ESG subcommittee responsible for stakeholder management, including of traditional owners, he said.
To help investors track their progress, mining companies must publish more data on issues like community engagement, water and air quality, and rehabilitation and closure plans, said Charlotte Valeur, founder of governance advisory firm Global Governance Group.
As a result of investor pressure, more mining companies are reporting so-called scope 3 emissions data, a measure of downstream CO2 emissions by metal consumers. Data transparency is key, says Valeur.
“It has to be deeds, not words,” she said. “What it’s easy to do is have some fluff - but what we want is hard numbers.”
Ma'aden celebrates 5th anniversary of Vision 2030
Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden), one of the world’s fastest-growing global mining companies, celebrates the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Kingdom’s mining champion highlights key achievements since the Vision 2030 launch and plans that reflect its commitment to the Kingdom’s social and economic development.
The Kingdom has implemented significant incentive programs and announced major reforms in the last five years to accelerate the development of the mining industry as a strategic pillar of the Saudi economy, including the recently launched mining investment law to attract investors and pave the way for the full utilisation of Saudi Arabia’s mineral resources, which are estimated to be worth more than $1.3trn. This goes in line with the objectives of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), one of the most important programs for achieving Vision 2030.
Ma’aden has kept its projects across a range of commodities moving on a strong growth trajectory since 2016. The company has expanded its investment portfolio, refinanced key projects, and made its first international acquisition, laying the foundation for future growth and new investment opportunities in the Saudi mining industry. Despite some challenges in 2020 due to COVID-19, Ma’aden managed to maintain its agility and remained focused on its goal to become a global Saudi mining giant, while adhering to the highest standards of health, safety, and environment.
Located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, Ras Al-Khair Industrial City jumpstarted the mining industry development in Saudi Arabia, leveraging the country’s strategic location in connecting three continents. In November 2016, Ras Al-Khair Industrial City was further expanded and connected via railway to Ma’aden’s bauxite mine in Qassim and phosphate mine in Al Jalamid, making it a cornerstone of the Kingdom’s mineral and metal production and export industries.
Ma’aden’s integrated ‘mine to market’ aluminium value chain is the largest in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world, with investments over $11bn. Aluminium products of the highest international standards are sold to both domestic and global markets, encouraging the development of additional downstream aluminium-based industries in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. Operations are centered around the largest and most efficient vertically integrated aluminium complex in the world, in Ras Al Khair Industrial City, which also houses sulfur and phosphate production facilities.
Intending to capture the full value of Saudi Arabia’s significant phosphate reserves and develop new mining and mineral activities, in 2018, Ma’aden celebrated the inauguration of the industrial city of Wa’ad Al Shamal by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Wa’ad Al Shamal is a world-class industrial and mining city in the Northern Borders region of Saudi Arabia. This phosphate super hub will continue to grow with Ma’aden’s latest phosphate megaproject, which is primed to increase phosphate fertilizer capacity to reach 6 million tonnes, making Ma’aden the world’s third-largest producer of phosphate fertilizer and Saudi Arabia the second largest global exporter.
In 2018, Ma’aden also acquired an 85% stake in Meridian, the Mauritius-based fertilizer distribution group, strengthening its position as one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of phosphate fertilizers. This acquisition marked Ma’aden’s first investment outside the Kingdom, in line with the company’s goal to expand globally and significantly contribute to the Kingdom's Vision 2030.
In 2019, Ma’aden commenced construction of the Mansourah and Massarah gold mine, the company’s largest-ever gold project and the Kingdom’s first project to utilize solar power as an energy source. Once operational, the mine and its processing facilities will have a key role in achieving Ma’aden’s target of producing 1 million ounces of gold per year by 2025.
These accomplishments are all due to the steppingstones set by the Saudi Vision 2030, which laid the foundations for creating an attractive environment for local and foreign investments in promising growth sectors and unlocking new ones, in addition to developing remote areas, bringing technologies and knowledge to the Kingdom, establishing specialized and modern industrial cities, and generating diverse job opportunities for Saudi nationals.