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BDO: Mining sector needs to reposition itself to secure social licenses and attract millennials

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Global Mining Review,

With both the population and the mining workforce ageing, Australia’s mining sector needs to reposition itself and change the narrative to secure social licenses to operate and attract the in-demand millennial talent pool.

Sherif Andrawes, BDO’s Global Head of Natural Resources, said stake-holder groups - which are increasingly widening - are demanding stronger engagement, transparency and accountability, so much so that a social licence will soon be akin to a mining licence, without which mining companies will find it impossible to operate.

“The mining industry provides input into almost every product and service in the world. If we want to combat climate change, we need the mining sector to supply the raw material for the manufacture of electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. Mining is also essential in the making of smartphones, consumer technology and food production,” Sherif said.

“It can be hard for people to identify with mining companies because what they do, and what they produce, are distant from what the community sees. People see phones, cars, TVs but the link back to mining is often not made. Mining companies need to change the way they communicate with the community to help people make these connections,” he said.

“We need to see mining as part of the solution and the industry needs to reposition itself as such. It’s in the industry’s commercial best interests to join these dots for community stakeholders and the wider population,” he said.

A new industry narrative will also play a crucial role in helping miners attract the in-demand millennial talent pool. New data from BDO shows that currently 39% of the industry’s workforce is made up of Gen Y and millennials, but Sherif said more will be needed as baby boomers retire and Gen X move into leadership positions.

A study by The Society for Human Resource Management showed that 94% of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause.

“Millennials want to save the planet and mining doesn’t currently appear on their career radars. It’s seen as a ‘sunset’ industry dominated by middle-aged managers, lacking in entrepreneurial endeavour,” Sherif said.

“Millennials are also not aware of the mining sector’s urgent need for digital skillsets as it transitions to advanced technologies like AI and machine learning. To meet their digitisation, automation and innovation goals, mining companies need to do a much better job of repositioning the sector so that it appeals to the millennial talent pool,” he said.

Sherif added that building a strong and sustainable social licence with shared values among stakeholders requires time, commitment and money. For many companies, this will often come with a period of lower profitability as it transitions to sustainable practices and processes.

“The sector is looking at a long game – local communities are not going to wait for the transition to be cost effective, so the necessary disruption may mean a different profit horizon for transitioning mining companies,” Sherif said.

“But the cost of not acting is far greater. Not only can an unstable social licence can be revoked at any time for a range of local and global stakeholders, but companies will miss out on the talent they need to digitise, automate and move into the next era of mining,” he said.

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Australian mining news