How will new mining technologies affect communities, governments, and operators? And how should policymakers respond to promote sustainable development through mining in the future?
These important questions and more are answered in the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development’s (IGF) latest 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,” shared 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 more – is faster and stronger than anything previously witnessed.
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. 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 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.
“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,” Ramdoo said.
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
- Find solutions in the new technologies themselves
Read the new report here.