The demand for metals and minerals that underpin economic progress is set to increase, with minerals underpinning most climate change efforts.
This growing demand predominantly stems from building the new infrastructure required for the global transition to cleaner energy sources, as well as for use in electric vehicles and battery storage applications.
To overcome perceptions that may slow the flow of these key resources, mining and metals companies are putting people and natural capital front and centre in their strategies, designing organisations and products for circularity, creating a regenerative ecosystem that finds value in reusing and repurposing materials throughout their processes.
Concurrently, mining and metals companies are continuing to collaborate and innovate to encourage technological advancement, collaboration, efficiency, inclusivity and safety in the sector.
This is according to the newly released fifteenth iteration of the yearly Deloitte Global mining and metals report, titled ‘Tracking the Trends 2023’.
In this report, Deloitte Global has identified ten trends that could impact the industry over the next 12 to 18 months.
Speaking to Mining Weekly, Deloitte Africa Energy, Resources and Industrials lead Andrew Lane says some of these are a continuation of trends highlighted in previous years, while several new ones have come to the fore.
He points out that the new trends include generating a strategic advantage through natural capital, with this prompted by where the world is in terms of the climate change situation, and how this can present a solution.
According to the report, the metrics mining and metals investors base their decisions on are rapidly changing. Traditional calculations no longer provide a sufficient picture of the risks and opportunities presented over a project’s lifecycle and a more holistic approach is needed.
As such, mining and metals companies are beginning to detail their impacts on nature across their operations and value chains to enable an accurate valuation of natural capital in financial disclosures.
Lane notes that the role of mining in a circular economy has come up specifically as a trend this year. The report highlights that mining and metals companies are beginning to reconsider their traditional roles as metal producers, exploring how a circular economy model can help them capitalise on previously untapped sources of value.
To reap the benefits of a circular economy, mining and metals systems should reconfigure to keep metals in their most valuable form, design out waste and maintain the health of the physical environment, the report indicates.
A notable trend is support for the decarbonisation of economies.
The report says that value chain decarbonisation is one of the biggest challenges miners and metal producers face, and many are collaborating to support or actively participate in research and development initiatives with downstream companies, in a bid to develop and accelerate breakthrough cleantech.
While the topic of safety has been consistent, Lane says that addressing both psychological and cultural safety has come into the picture this year.
The report notes that a culturally and psychologically safe workplace is helping mining and metals employees call out safety issues and bring their best selves to work, while simultaneously attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Cyber safety is also emerging as a new topic in the mining industry as part of the safety trend, Lane says.
Unsurprisingly, he also points to the trend of supply chain fortification, owing to the current geopolitical climate, with disruptions starting with Covid-19 and now exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the pandemic shutdown in China.
The need to build resilient supply chains entails building local content, which presents an opportunity for South Africa, Lane adds.
Another trend that the country can benefit from is solving complex workforce challenges through collaborative solutions, Lane says, given its struggle to attract and retain talent in the industry.
According to the report, the mining and metals sector continues to see workforce challenges as its navigates a fast-evolving labour market amid a global shift toward purposeful employment.
While companies are trying to better reflect the value of people and build environment, social and governance (ESG) policies into corporate strategies to help attract talent, the skills shortage remains an industrywide issue.
By bringing together multiple stakeholders across the mining and metals ecosystem – from governance, to regulators, to educational entities and private bodies – the industry can shape a multifaceted, enduring solution to talent sourcing, the report posits.
The report states that mining and metals are critical to the economy, with estimates that about 50% of world gross domestic product is somehow related to this.
Therefore, is has the potential to positively influence ESG development, Lane highlights.
In this vein, he points to the trend of speeding successful innovation for greater value.
The report indicates that ESG in mining has acted as a catalyst for collaborative innovation efforts, driving companies to join forces to tackle problems, such as decarbonisation, that transcend the capability of any one organisation.
Now, mining and metals companies are taking the insights garnered from those initiatives and using them to scale and speed innovations across the value chain for maximum impact.
Though not designed or accustomed to sharing data, the industry should look to overcome the stumbling blocks that have prevented innovations from reaching their full potential in the past, the report emphasises.
Other trends identified include using tax and economic contribution reporting to change perceptions of mining, using systems thinking to drive next-level operational excellence and building an industry that thrives through change.