'Mission critical' time for mining players

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 'Mission critical' time for mining players
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Responsible mining and the sourcing of minerals for new technologies means more than ticking a box on country of origin.


New research launched at Australia's biggest mining conference on Thursday adds to pressure on the federal government to sign up to a decades-old global standard.

"The time is right," international governance expert Mark Robinson told the International Mining and Resources Conference.

Increasingly, consumers, companies and governments are looking at the environmental, social and governance (ESG) context of where and how mining takes place and where the ingredients of products and equipment come from.

The Mission Critical report by the Sustainable Minerals Institute of the University of Queensland identifies key risks for the gargantuan supply of minerals needed to make the world's electric cars, batteries, wind turbines and solar energy systems. 

Corrupt deals, price shocks and disruptions in global supply chains are called out in the report that advocates stronger accountability and reporting.

Shortcuts in approving mines, encroachment into conservation areas and dodgy commodity trading pacts could disrupt supply of the minerals needed for the new energy technologies, the report warns.

The same minerals are crucial for high-tech communications and defence technologies.

Some of Australia's largest resources firms already use a global standard developed for the mining, oil and gas sectors which could be applied to the rapidly expanding critical minerals industry.

The global Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standard has an important role to play to make sure people and the planet benefit from the push for net-zero emissions, according to the report.

Mr Robinson, executive director of EITI, which commissioned the research, said it used to be enough for companies to see a gap in information and report on it later.

"Now, with powerful data systems, we're trying to engineer a change," he said.

Data gathered from companies, systems and governments is becoming "near real-time" and much more useful to companies and regulators, he said.

More than 50 countries have agreed to the EITI rules that govern what should be disclosed.

"In this current climate, given the way the mining sector has such potential to evolve for the benefit of all Australians, the EITI offers a strong mechanism," Mr Robinson said.

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