A sustainable industry and responsible mining for tomorrow's world?

Can we carry out the ecological and energy transition without sustainable and responsible metals? Virginie de Chassey, Executive Vice-President of Sustainable Development and Communication at Eramet, answers this question and shares her convictions in this column published on LinkedIn. Read it here.

Portrait of Virginie de Chassey, Executive Vice-President of Sustainable Development and Communication at Eramet

Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, as many metals that go into the composition of electric car batteries or energy storage systems. Often referred to as "metals of the future" because they play a fundamental role in the energy transition or, for some of them, as "critical metals" because the securing of their supply is at stake, they question the mining industry about its transformation and its role for the future of the planet. 

The expected explosion in demand for these metals - lithium, nickel, cobalt - combined with recent calls for green metals, represents an opportunity for the raw materials industries: how, across the planet, are we going to produce better, in accordance with the highest ethical, societal and environmental standards? How are we going to take part in the transformation of the world in full awareness of these issues?

Business for good: an imperative?

Our smartphones and tablets require the same metals. These are everyday objects that we are taking particular advantage of in the health crisis we are going through, both in our personal and professional lives. Our bicycles or cars, which are trending towards electric, will also increase demand. Here again, in recent months, as we were forced to remain immobile, we have realised how essential our mobility is.

The response of manufacturers must be equal to the challenges posed by the climate emergency. 
With the energy transition, cobalt requirements will double by 2025 and lithium requirements will increase two and a half times. As far as the additional demand for nickel is concerned, it is estimated at +40%. 

The entire sector must ensure the conditions for the extraction of these metals without delay. And the most demanding behaviour from companies that make virtuous choices must be encouraged. Elon Musk's recent call to find a long-term partner capable of producing "environmentally friendly" nickel for Tesla's electric car batteries is a sign that the automotive industry is mobilising.

Indispensable choices for a responsible end-to-end chain

In order to meet the legitimate expectations of citizens, shareholders and investors, it is imperative that the metals supply chain is responsible from end to end, from the extraction of the ore to the metals contained in the batteries, through the transformation process. The world needs raw materials from sustainable and responsible supply chains. Otherwise the credibility of the ecological transition’s promise will be undermined.

At Eramet, this idea of sustainability is particularly important. It is at the heart of our strategic transformation and we seek the positive impact of our decisions in order to be efficient and responsible in all our activities. This also means knowing how to take courageous and committed positions.

For example, Eramet has chosen to ban the practice of dumping mine tailings in deep ocean pits, known as Deep Sea Tailings Placement. A choice which has a cost and which exposes us in terms of competitiveness compared to our competitors because the more responsible alternatives are also more expensive. A choice that corresponds to our vision of the mining and metallurgical industry, the one we intend to build for tomorrow.

Inventing tomorrow's mining industry

We are convinced that our long-term presence in the territories where we operate depends largely on our ability to create value in our host countries. It is up to us to demonstrate that our presence brings positive economic and social benefits for our local partners and the local populations. It is up to us to prove that we pay rigorous attention to the Earth's resources. It is possible and it is the only way.

This is why our inclusive and 360° CSR approach is at the heart of our activities and all our development projects. It is with this in mind that we are scrupulously measuring the progress of the thirteen objectives we have set for ourselves between now and 2023 as part of our CSR roadmap. An ambitious programme that responds to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and is built around the human, economic and environmental dimensions. 

Our CSR roadmap sets a course for our company and we are more determined than ever to maintain it, despite the crisis. To succeed, we need to act with the entire industry, starting with major customers and policies, to support virtuous initiatives. The world needs responsible mining. We need it now. I am convinced that our transition must be made in full awareness. Tomorrow's world depends on the choices we make today.