But many firms have also ruled out new spending in parts of Australia/Oceania and South America due to challenges securing and maintaining a social licence to operate.
Community relations/social licence is a top priority in the mining sector and was chosen as the theme of MJI's Global Leadership 2023 report, published this week.
In the Global Leadership Survey - a key element of the report - MJI asked whether social licence or community relations challenges had resulted in ‘no-go' zones which mining companies and investors would avoid.
While the majority (58.8%) of the survey's 228 participants said no - that there aren't areas they would shun due to community relations concerns - 79 (41.1%) said yes and were asked to specify these community-related ‘no-go' zones.
The most mentioned region was Africa, with 23 respondents highlighting the continent or certain countries or sub-regions within it as areas where they would not invest due to social licence challenges.
Africa is one of the world's most challenging regions for mining, scoring a weak 51 out of 100 in the MJI's Investment Risk Index in the World Risk Report 2022 - equivalent to a ‘CCC' rating, and second-worst globally behind Asia.
But Australia/Oceania - a relatively strong performer on risk, averaging 62 or ‘BB' in the 2022 report - was second after Africa, with 18 mentions (the figure may have been swelled by the high concentration of Australia-based companies in the survey, who accounted for 50.9% of the 228 responses).
South America was a close third, with 17 mentions. Both Asia and Russia/former Soviet Union were mentioned by seven respondents, followed by Central America (6), Canada (5), and the US and Europe, with three mentions each. One respondent mentioned the Middle East.
Drilling down to the individual jurisdiction level, the survey revealed investment concerns were highest in ‘usual suspect' countries - as well as traditional safe havens.
Russia tied with Australia with seven mentions each (some of the respondents who mentioned Australia said concerns were focused within certain states and territories). The DRC - the world's highest risk jurisdiction in our 2022 World Risk Report - and South Africa tied for second place, with five mentions each, followed by Canada and Peru (4 mentions).
The US and Papua New Guinea were each mentioned three times, followed by Indonesia and Argentina, with two mentions. Eleven countries were mentioned once.
Survey respondents were mainly from mining or exploration companies (54.8%) and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) firms (31.6%). The remaining 13.6% were investors.
Rising social challenges
The report revealed that around four-fifths (79.7%) of survey respondents felt that securing and maintaining a social licence had got harder over the past five years - with a slightly larger majority (82.2%) expecting challenges to grow further over the coming half-decade.
The Global Leadership Survey forms one of two main elements of the Global Leadership Report 2023, along with interviews with senior executives of 23 larger mining companies, with aggregate market caps totalling more than US$350 billion, on the theme of social licence.
While only a handful of the CEOs interviewed stated that community relations had got harder, most said the situation had become more complex, largely due to social trends, with people now much more likely to demand more benefits from the mining industry and less tolerant of negative consequences.
Other themes under discussion in the report include the effect of increasing automation on community relations, increasing spending on social investments in host communities, and top tools and strategies for keeping communities onside.
The Global Leadership Survey 2023 is available here. The report is free for Premium subscribers and can be purchased as a standalone report.