Tailings a harbinger for what’s to come on heritage and ESG reporting

The executive fallout from the Juukan cave disaster in the Pilbara of Western Australia is the turning point in the mining industry’s ongoing battle to maintain social license, says K2fly Chief Commercial Office Nic Pollock.

He says miners, who are already scrambling to implement the reporting requirements from the recent released Global Tailings Standards (GTS), which came about after successive and disastrous tailings dam failures, are now looking to quickly implement better checks and reporting in their heritage management.

“There’s been no greater example of increased community expectations and radical transparency at work than in these last few months since the blast took place,” he says.

“While antiquated WA state heritage laws allowed the destruction of the caves to happen legally, major shareholders and other stakeholders were not going to let the event pass without serious implications for management, and likely for the board.

“We’re seeing capital, not governments, dictate improved performance in ESG for mining companies and other industries. “And there is a real sense of urgency around the change needed, given the impact on social license and the real threat of projects being held up for extended periods to review. Pollock says miners will need to implement structural organisational change, replicating what is being implemented to manage the GTS to ensure proper accountability across the organisation and disclosure.

“We expect to see, and are already beginning to hear rumours of the appointment of a ‘responsible executive’ for heritage and other ESG topics within organisations. That should also be followed by enforced levels of competence in the process and independent review boards. All of this requires additional resources and access to the multitude of supporting documents that already exist, as well as system driven governance workflows and evidential trails, says Pollock.

“For a tier 2 global miner the implementation of the GTS is probably around AUD$10m, for a tier 1 that could easily be $20 or $30m. And the industry is also facing a shortage of competent peoples in these discrete technical areas.”

Technological solutions are critical, says Pollock, to be a part in the solution, improving the burden of transparency and reducing the costs to implement.

“Systems like that offered by K2fly will help organisations develop a single platform of technical assurance and governance of processes ranging from mineral inventory reporting to heritage management to tailings governance, that ensures accountability.

“These kinds of solutions are critical and can help boards and management rest more easily that systems exist to prevent new disasters. And that all are held to account.”

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