ESG: Resilience and opportunity in uncertain times
The BC mining industry saw solid but mixed results in 2019 amid healthy prices for silver and gold even as metallurgical coal declined over the year. While the year started strong, prices of industrial metals and minerals started to fall towards the end of 2019 due to expectations of slowing global economic growth. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to further price declines for some commodities in the first part of 2020, while gold continued to climb amid global market uncertainty.
Amid the uncertainty, our most recent global CEO survey indicated that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are a growing priority for business executives, including those in the mining industry. These issues are even more relevant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought attention to issues—such as health and safety, community engagement and environmental impacts—that will only rise in importance in the future.
With the rising focus on ESG and sustainability in the mining industry, our 52nd BC Mine report offers a range of insights on these issues. It includes a look at the financial results for the industry in 2019 and explores the impacts of COVID-19 as well as the outlook for BC mines for the rest of 2020.
Revenues fell slightly from 2018 even as gold prices were up over the year before. This was due, in part, to lower prices for key metals and minerals—notably metallurgical coal—decreased coal sales at some operations and the impacts of Imperial Metals Corp.’s Mount Polley mine going on care and maintenance in 2019.
With the exception of gold and silver, the prices of most metals and minerals produced in the province fell in 2019. The 2020 forecast for metals and minerals continues to be mixed with the expectation that prices for metallurgical coal and zinc will continue to fall and copper will rise slightly. Gold and silver prices are expected to continue their upward trend.
Despite slightly lower revenues, total contribution to government coffers rose to CA$1.1 billion from CA$953 million in 2018, which reflects increases to some taxes from the year before. The industry continues to be a significant source of employment and creator of jobs in British Columbia. In 2019, there were 11,784 direct jobs at the companies that participated in this year’s survey.
ESG considerations have moved from the sidelines to the mainstream, especially among investors looking at where to put their funds. ESG performance helps investors gauge the economic health of an organization, as well as its risk profile. A growing body of research shows companies with strong ESG performance tend to outperform financially and in the market.
According to the Eurasia Group, ESG is not only the right thing to do but it also helps companies build resiliency, especially during challenging times. Looking forward, ESG will be critical to the mining industry as investors will be more motivated than ever.
BC mining companies know that ESG performance is key to gaining the social licence required to move forward with plans to explore, develop and produce their metals and minerals. But with investor expectations and other pressures also putting an increased focus on ESG factors, it’s critical for miners to put these issues at the top of their agendas.
ESG reporting is particularly important. This requires BC mining companies to determine which standards best suit their operations as ESG measures are being more closely followed by stakeholders, including investors, government and affected communities.
Image courtesy of Centerra Gold Inc.
When it comes to the rising focus on sustainability, Centerra Gold Inc. aims to keep its activities and reporting simple, focused and impactful. To report credible and trustworthy ESG metrics, Centerra Gold1 believes miners need to focus their methodology and measurements on a limited number of key factors, such as energy and water use and community engagement, instead of trying to address everything.
Michael Goehring, President and CEO of the Mining Association of BC1
While the current business outlook remains uncertain, the BC mining industry is in a good position to withstand volatility due to prudent spending over the last few years and strong ESG practices, including health and safety standards, that have allowed BC mines to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the importance and relevance of ESG continues to grow, BC mining companies have a chance to build on their strengths and capitalize on their successes so far. To do that, BC mining companies need to place ESG matters at the core of their business strategies while aligning them to the purpose of the organization.
Embed ESG matters into the way you think about, plan and conduct business, including when it comes to your culture, values, relationships and employee engagement.
Determine which ESG frameworks and standards work best for your organization and assess your options for proper assurance over your metrics to ensure accurate and credible reporting.
Explore opportunities to work with government, industry groups, academics, local communities and other sectors to accelerate ESG performance and extend impact.