This year’s virtual Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM) Convention and Expo is seeing some positivity in forward-looking projections, and an undeniable confidence in the mining industry. One of the convention’s major speakers, Anglo-American CEO Mark Cutifani cut right to the chase in explaining that the mining sector is absolutely essential to both modern life and the global economy. According to him, “the simple fact is that the world cannot survive without mining and our contribution to literally every aspect of modern life.”
Mining activity is a significant driver of economic activity on its own, but the true reach of the industry is seen and felt in the other industries that rely on mining to not only thrive, but survive. Food production, construction, transportation, renewable energy infrastructure, and the all-important sectors of communications and energy all rely on mining in some way, shape, or form.
Perception vs. Reality
The convention, and Anglo American’s CEO, in particular, are quick to note that the disconnect between the reality and the public’s perception of mining is significant: “Even with all the contributions we make, people tend to see us as an industry that takes more than it gives. One of the things we don’t do well as an industry is talk about what we do.”
For example, the agriculture industry has a much larger footprint than the mining industry but doesn’t get half the criticism or attention. Agriculture takes up approximately half the world’s habitable land, with mining taking up a comparatively minuscule 0.04% of the habitable land available. The attention, however, is usually on the fact that the mining industry requires extraction for production, almost always of natural resources.
The industry and Anglo-American have begun to shift the narrative to highlight the good the industry does and the economic activity it generates around the world. On top of that, the industry is making a conscious and significant effort to join the global decarbonisation efforts underway now to plan for a future of cleaner mining and more responsible operational practices. Mining companies like Anglo-American plan to pivot to a new reality in which it becomes a “materials solutions company” delivering a more circular business model to include more recycling, efforts to slow or stop climate change, and a social responsibility approach that aligns with the needs of societies in every region in which they operate.
Part of the disconnect between the efforts and solutions being implemented in the mining industry and the public perception of the industry is a lack of communication. The industry has not conveyed the changes made in the past ten years, and the acceleration happening now that is so critical. The changes made now will also have significant ripple effects, as the mining industry is moving much faster than most other industries to get on board with the new, cleaner, and more sustainable reality.
An Important Convention for an Important Industry
The virtual convention will continue through tomorrow (May 6), with some of the biggest companies and CEOs in mining contributing to panels and discussions throughout the convention. Mark Cutifani spoke on a panel moderated by Jerrod Downey, president of Crownsmen Partners, and included Jody Kuzenko, president and CEO of Torex Gold Resources (TSX: TXG), David Cataford, president and CEO of Champion Iron (TSX: CIA) (ASX: CIA), and Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar.
The theme of the session was “resilient and thriving”, mirroring the results of 2021 as the mining industry continues to expand at full force. The 2020 pandemic hit the industry in some regions as lockdowns restricted mining activity, but growth is in the air now as companies press forward with current projects and expand into new ones.