IGF report identifies policy options for mining transformation

Monday, 20 September, 2021

IGF report identifies policy options for mining transformation

How will new mining technologies affect communities, governments and operators? And how should policymakers respond to promote sustainable development through mining in the future?

To answer these important questions, the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) has published the report ‘New Tech, New Deal: Mining Policy Options in the Face of New Technology’.

“In recent years, we’ve seen an acceleration of investment in disruptive technologies in the large-scale mining sector,” said Isabelle Ramdoo, the report’s co-author and Deputy Director of the IGF. “These technologies will alter the traditional relationships between mining companies, communities and governments.”

While technological evolution is nothing new in mining, the coming wave of changes — incorporating digitisation, big data, automation, ubiquitous sensors, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technologies — is faster and stronger than anything ever seen before.

Labour is one area where the report authors anticipate major impacts as new technologies will mean fewer jobs overall but also provide for new, high-paying positions (see chart). Skills training programs may be part of the answer to equip local workers to fill these new mining roles and support the industry’s social licence to operate.

“In many ways, mining jobs are seen as payment from operators to local communities,” said Ramdoo.

According to the report, new technologies may bring increased productivity to mine operators, while key variables will determine how these changes play out for women in mining and the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. In addition, some new technologies may provide for benefits extending beyond the mining sector.

The report also examines how new technologies will affect supply chains and local procurement as well as taxation and government revenue from the sector.

Risk of job loss from new mining technology (Source: IGF)

Risk of job loss from new mining technology (Source: IGF).

“If new technologies reduce the flow of benefits from mining operations to local communities and governments, good policies can go a long way to rebalance the traditional deal between these important stakeholders and large-scale mining companies,” said Ramdoo.

The authors outline four broad categories for ‘new deal’ mining policies that should:

  • ensure any new jobs are contestable by locals;
  • use mining to drive economic diversification outside the mining sector;
  • rethink tax mechanisms to account for the new realities; and
  • find solutions in the new technologies themselves.

The full report can be read here.

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/agnormark

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