Last quarter, we released our global mining report, "Risks and Opportunities for Mining: Outlook 2019." The report captures survey feedback and key global market trends influencing miners in Canada, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. We timed the report’s release to coincide with two significant mining events happening in Toronto: the #DisruptMining Exhibition which KPMG co-hosts with Goldcorp; and the PDAC Convention. These two events saw a mass influx into Toronto of mining professionals from all over the world during the first week of March, and I was pleased to be able to participate.
My conversations in Canada were against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions and a historic shift in commodity demand patterns. It’s notable that many mining executives I spoke with commented on the acceleration of global energy transformation and just how quickly the reduction of carbon emissions was being pushed across all sectors such as transport, production and domestic power demand. Decarbonisation and advanced intelligent technologies are global trends affecting miners around the world, and this is triggering multiple and often accelerating challenges.
During my long-haul flight back to Australia, I reflected on my conversations in Canada and came away with three key takeaways:
1. Technology and innovative solutions are today’s version of the 1850s Gold Rush. In almost all my conversations, we discussed the challenges of miners in terms of the way in which new thinking and technologies are being explored and developed to manage risk and solve problems.
2. The sector remains very competitive for capital. There is a distinct bias favouring those with strong environmental and social governance, as well as successful growth, and this is adding to the challenges facing miners looking to attract and retain capital while operating in an environment with growing macro and geopolitical challenges.
3. The need to enhance social licence to operate is happening in all boardroom discussions. This issue cuts across talent, government relations, community and employee engagement.
In the face of greater complexity, it’s a positive that KPMG’s global mining report has found 66% of global miners are confident on the growth outlook. Into the mix with traditional risks of the sector, like commodity price and access to reserves, we now see new and growing threats involving digital disruption, the emergence of non-traditional minerals into the market, challenges accessing water and energy, and climate change. But it’s not all doom and gloom. In every case, the proper strategic response to risk can be an opportunity to create value for mining companies. For example, 73% of report respondents see technological disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat.
Miners around the world are experiencing increased competition for capital. Innovative thinking to solve problems and disruptive technology to better manage costs and boost production will create value and enhance the sector’s competitiveness. But with global investors becoming increasingly selective about where they put their money, enhancing social licence to operate is critical to sustainability and attracting a new wave of investors. The results from “Risks and Opportunities for Mining: Outlook 2019”, echo the need to remain competitive, and to preserve licence to operate not just with communities and governments, but also with investors as they continue to look for sustainable and socially and environmentally responsible businesses.
I also see increasing collaboration between mining leaders as an important strategy to ensure a successful and sustainable future for the mining industry. Certainly, I’ve noted greater appetite for miners to share - looking for opportunities to engage and work together to better understand and support the expectations of many different stakeholders on key aspects of safety, community and the environment.
There’s no doubt that miners are operating in a complex and rapidly changing environment. But as I state in the opening of the report, with risk comes opportunity.