Despite mining driving 45 per cent of the world’s economic activity, the industry is still viewed as one that “takes more than it gives,” according to Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani.
Speaking at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Cutifani urged mining companies to connect the future of mining with emerging and next generation societal values.
Mining has changed during the past 30 years due to declining grades. For example, producing 40 kilograms of copper in 1990 only required two tonnes of rock to be extracted.
Today, the amount of rock and energy required for this has risen by a factor of 16 while water consumption is doubling.
“Beyond these obvious physical and technical challenges, mining’s social license to operate is under significant strain,” Cutifani said.
“Despite mining’s clear contribution to almost every aspect of modern life, (it) continues to face a crisis of reputation.
“Our challenge is clear; we need to do things differently to find new, safer, more sustainable and cost-effective ways to supply essential raw materials to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and urbanising global population for decades to come.”
Anglo American is working towards a smarter and more sustainable future with its innovation-led approach FutureSmart Mining.
Aimed to transform Anglo American’s physical and social footprint, the company is committed to ensuring the introduction of new technologies is managed responsibly to give a positive effect on the communities and environment where it operates.
“This means we are listening, recognising that we don’t have all the answers,” Cutifani said.
“Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. We cannot ignore or underestimate its global impact.
“Beyond the mine gate, the industry is thinking about the influence (it) can have to reduce emissions along the entire value chain, working with suppliers, peers and customers to reduce global emissions.
Anglo American, for example, has set the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency by 30 per cent by 2030.
As the company enters a new decade, it has also adopted next generation values of transparency, responsible innovation, sustainability and shared prosperity.
“As we consider the impact mining has on society, it is important to recognise that few industries in the world touch as many people as mining,” Cutifani said.
“I believe mining has the opportunity to not only continue positively powering human progress towards a cleaner, greener, more sustainable world, but to do so in a way society expects of us.
“We owe it to the next generation to pave a new and sustainable path for mining, we dare not fail.”