Metal producers have to reinvent their relationship with communities in order to gain social licenses to grow output and feed the clean-energy transition, according to billionaire mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland.
Speaking on a panel at Bloomberg’s inaugural New Economy Gateway Latin America event being held in Panama City, Friedland said mining is crucial for building a new economy, given “copper is the new oil.”
But the industry has to be better at engaging communities and reducing environmental footprints to gain acceptance. That means adopting a more holistic approach to communities by rolling out projects in everything from farming to education, he said.
Referring to ongoing community protests that have stalled output at MMG Ltd.’s Las Bambas copper mine in Peru, he said: “Miners need to reexamine the enterprise from day one to try to prevent that kind of problem from occurring.” With regards to ESG, he said: “Companies that get it right will inherit the industry. Companies that don’t, will die.”
The founder and executive co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. also urged governments to be “very, very careful” not to make operating environments too onerous and scare away investments to friendly jurisdictions. A lithium cartel is a “terrible idea,” he said.
Fernanda Avila, mining secretary of Argentina, said the South American country’s later embracing of mining has a silver lining. “Argentina can introduce the ESG framework from the beginning of the life of the projects.”