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"It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this"

Responsible Mining Foundation chief executive Hélène de Villiers-Piaget has told Mining Journal the industry has a vital role to play in helping communities get through the COVID-19 crisis and, in large part, miners were living up to that expectation.
"It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this" "It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this" "It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this" "It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this" "It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this"

The COVID-19 podcast interviews are part of Mining Journal's Stakeholder Engagement programme, a 12-month campaign focused on helping the mining industry better understand and engage with key stakeholder groups. Find out more here.

"It's important to find the right balance between survival and the important role mining has in society," she said in a podcast recording as part of the Mining Journal Stakeholder Engagement Programme. "The most important thing companies can do is act as a stabiliser economically and as a neighbour, socially.

"We're seeing some really good work being done by mining companies that are keeping contractors and workers with some money coming in so it's not a completely ‘off-a-cliff' situation, and they're looking at the resources they have to support their environments - usually with health and safety, as well - to play a social role."

de Villiers-Piaget said it wasn't just high-profile and well publicised support from major listed miners that had come to the attention of the RMF, but also from private groups and from parts of the world not necessarily associated with best practice.

"There are definitely companies at the forefront of engaging with opportunities to play the role of good neighbour or stabiliser in a region," she said. "These are often the companies with the best resources, and also the best publicity departments.

"[But] let's not forget all the state-owned companies and those flying under the radar. We've recently been engaged with a company in Uzbekistan and it's reminded us that many companies in this part of the world and in Eastern Europe have really good policies in terms of taking care of people that are not recognised by other parts of the world."

However, de Villiers-Piaget said there were still companies "just throwing up their hands" and declaring Force Majeure, which was "extremely disruptive within a disruptive environment".

NovaGold Resources president and chief executive Greg Lang said the COVID-19 crisis would have a major, unknown effect on the mining space, but he had been generally "proud" of how companies had reacted to the challenge so far.

"It's almost impossible to see a silver lining in all this," he told Mining Journal's Stakeholder Engagement Programme.

"This is nothing like anyone has seen anywhere in the world and we're all learning how to adapt and working to understand what the long-term impacts might be on the mining industry.

"Clearly, different areas around the world have been affected to different degrees, so, the response isn't one-size-fits-all, [but] as we watch what's happening in the industry, I'm frankly very proud how the industry is responding to this."

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LME Responsible Sourcing initiative on track

Meanwhile, the London Metal Exchange has confirmed the electronic price setting introduced in late March was temporary and would not replace the historic, open out-cry trading Ring. It has also said its Responsible Sourcing initiative, which will increase the transparency and traceability of metals trading on the platform, may not be interrupted despite the disruption being experienced by members.

"Clearly at a time like this, all organisations need to focus on keeping their core business going - supporting their core business, supporting their people, supporting their communities - so the last thing the LME wants to do is add a layer of bureaucracy on top of that," LME chief executive Matthew Chamberlain told the Mining Journal Stakeholder Engagement Programme.

"We've been very clear, we don't want any responsible sourcing overheads distracting people from their core roles at this time of stress.

"That said, we're in quite a positive position on responsible sourcing because we completed the rules back in 2019 so they were published and people know what they're going to be, and the implementation doesn't happen until 2021. So, 2020 was always a year of preparation for the industry. At the moment, we haven't had any of our brands or stakeholders coming to us saying because of the pandemic situation, the rules need to be pushed back or relaxed.

"Obviously, if things continue, we have to be ready for that - everybody has to be understanding - but right now we haven't sensed that."

 

Matthew Chamberlain from the London Metal Exchange discusses COVID-19

Listen to the Matthew Chamberlain interview in full here.

 

Greg Lang from NovaGold Resources discusses COVID-19

Listen to the Greg Lang interview in full here.

 

Hélène de Villiers-Piaget from the Responsible Mining Foundation discusses COVID-19

Listen to the Hélène de Villiers-Piaget interview in full here.

 

Full interviews with these and other experts are available on the Mining Journal Stakeholder engagement website on https://www.mining-stakeholders.com