Making Mining more Environmentally and Socially Responsible with Traceability
24 May 2022
Why traceability matters
Society is more dependent on mined substances than ever before. Especially as the world electrifies its power generation and transportation sectors, where and how we get critical materials like copper, lithium, cobalt, and nickel—just to name a few—is of growing focus. As we increase volumes of these extracted materials, traceability can ensure that mining practices take care of people and our planet.
Increase air pollution, negatively affecting human health and the environment,
Increase carbon emissions via its highly energy-intensive practices,
Cause consequential soil erosion, leaving the land vulnerable,
Negatively impact the local habitat,
Pollute local water resources,
Potentially produce hazardous waste.
Why minerals and metals are being mined
Minerals and metals are key to our global economy. Mined materials are in nearly all our everyday products—our cell phones, our computers, our TVs, our electronics, household appliances—and the semiconductors, batteries, and transmission lines that bring them to life.
On top of current demand, we also need more of these materials to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads and reduce the approximate 40 percent of global emissions that come from transportation.
Transitioning into a clean energy system
The shift to a clean energy system will cause growth in mined materials and require exponentially more tons of lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite. According to the IEA, clean energy technologies are becoming the fastest-growing segment of demand, and their share of total demand will rise significantly over the next two decades by 40% for copper and rare earth elements, 60-70% for nickel and cobalt, and almost 90% for lithium.
EVs and battery storage have already displaced consumer electronics to become the largest consumer of lithium and are set to take over from stainless steel as the largest end-user of nickel by 2040. Metal mining is essential for the energy transition; therefore, we need to practice mining responsibly on a global level.
Sustainable mining can be achieved with traceability
Growing demand for critical minerals and materials doesn’t have to mean negative consequences for our environments or our communities.
Vulcan, BHP, Element25, Rock Tech Lithium, and Talon Metals are all examples of responsible miners who are doing this well with the environment and local communities at the forefront of their decisions.
It is crucial to work and engage closely with the local community, listening to their concerns and answering their questions on the project. Displaying the purpose and the performance of the mine is also essential to building community relationships based on trust. As Battery Associates wisely notes, the heart of a planned mine is the people, and if local communities don’t approve a project, it can be difficult to have a social license to operate.
Working with the community
Sustainable and responsible mining that works together with its community can best be achieved when traceability is integrated because traceability enables data-driven, clear communications to internal and external corporate and community stakeholders on the goals and accomplishments of the project. Transparency and traceability upstream, using Circulor’s technology, can allow collaborative work to achieve agreed goals.
When done sustainably with traceability, mining can provide benefits for communities, such as local employment and greater economic development. The miner and the community also ensure the local environment is taken care of.
Differentiating through ESG performance
For the miner’s business, underpinning their ESG performance—including low CO2—also enables them to differentiate themselves to downstream customers and investors—especially as the clean and trusted upstream partner for their downstream supply chain members.
Electric vehicle automakers increasingly need to meet carbon footprint requirements and proof of sourcing responsibly and sustainably, as will be required in the forthcoming EU Battery Regulation. Upstream miners using traceability will create a competitive advantage by applying traceability and helping these OEMs meet such targets.
Traceability can allow downstream organizations to make responsible sourcing decisions by increasing transparency of their supply chains and identifying where to focus. Mining organizations who are early adopters of traceability are incentivised to mine more sustainably and responsibly and will eventually become suppliers of choice, as they enable supply chains to work together to protect both people and our planet.
Battery Associates. (2022). Battery Mining Dialogue.
Responsible Mining Foundation. (2021). Harmful Impacts of Mining: When extraction harms people, environments, and economies
Global Battery Alliance. (2020). The Global Battery Alliance Battery Passport: Giving an identity to the EV’s most important component.