What’s Ahead for Mining in 2024: 8 Challenges & How to Overcome Them
Challenges are not new to the mining industry and 2024 is shaping up to hold several, from ESG pressure to labor shortages. But by focusing on challenges as opportunities to optimize, this resilient industry will no doubt weather these headwinds.
Here are the top issues, challenges and trends we’re seeing on the road ahead.
ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance)
According to 2024 research at EY, mining executives are looking at ESG as the biggest risk to their business — the third consecutive year ESG has received that dubious ranking. Why? It’s because of increasing scrutiny from investors and other stakeholders, and the likelihood of more strict regulations in the area of environmental protection and governance practices. All of which could lead to higher capital costs for mining companies that have to play catch-up in terms of ESG measures and compliance, like investment in new technologies and efforts toward carbon capture and storage. However, there’s a silver lining here for companies that take the lead in these efforts. It can put them on top in terms of attracting the best talent and capital investments, both of which are poised to be problematic this coming year.
Another thing about the environment …
In addition to mounting governmental pressure and stricter regulations in terms of ESG, there are other factors (and fallout) related to the environment as well. Shifting demand could mean changes in operations and production. For some companies, it may mean less demand for the materials they’re mining. For others, especially those that are focusing on nickel and lithium used in EV batteries, it means a boom.
That EY survey of mining executives cites capital as the second most pressing issue for the industry, behind (and hand-in-hand with) ESG. It’s shaping up to be a race for investments to facilitate the exploration for and extraction of minerals like nickel, copper and lithium, all crucial to the energy and environmental initiatives coming down the pike.
Delivering on growth projects
Linking to capital investments is the ability to develop new assets. Bringing new assets on-line faster, more responsibly and safer is more important than ever, especially in stable regions. Excelling in development projects is no longer a competitive advantage, it is an expectation from all stakeholders. Local communities and authorities expect a faster and larger return while shareholders expect a faster return on their investments. Executing growth projects on time, within budget and responsibly will define the exceptional from the pack.
Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, and that’s just what’s making the headlines. Barring a holiday miracle, geopolitical instability isn’t going away anytime soon. In addition to the human toll, it means continued supply chain disruption, price volatility and more for the mining industry. It might mean trade tensions, embargoes, tariffs and other measures that impact the mineral trade, including “resource nationalism.”
It seems like every year, we’re talking about a labor shortage in terms of recruitment and retention, and this year is no different for the mining industry. It’s particularly pressing because it’s a problem on two fronts. The labor shortage is impacting productivity today when you don’t have enough people to get the job done now. But it’s also the lack of a skilled workforce pipeline, people coming up and getting the skills they need to replace older, experienced workers who are retiring or leaving the workforce for other reasons. Workforce training, like we provide at USC Consulting, is the key to getting everyone on the same page, doing the same job the same way. It boosts productivity, which is an absolute necessity when you are feeling a labor crunch.
Technology and innovation will be big in 2024 for mining, as it will for most industries on the planet. Investments in automation will improve efficiency and safety, and it might help with the labor shortage as well. But technology advancements in mining aren’t really about the bots taking over people’s jobs. They can create new jobs and new opportunities for skilled workers which, in turn, will ratchet up productivity and process improvements mine-wide. Investments in new technologies will also help in areas of exploration, discovery and mineral extraction, again boosting productivity.
As data becomes king in all industries, not just mining, increasing digitalization heightens the risk of cyberattacks. Mining companies are considered high-value targets and are vulnerable to disruption, financial losses and more. Employee training, having a response plan in place and digital security measures are all important areas of focus for the coming year.
Remaining competitive through economic cycles or shocks
Many natural resource companies struggle to remain competitive through economic cycles or market and commodity shocks. The best possible operating efficiencies, productivity and lowest possible unit costs are the best insurance against these cyclical and adverse events. Companies design and develop good systems, but it is at the point of execution or operator level where the best distinguish itself from the others.
At USC Consulting Group, we understand what it takes to weather the headwinds for the Mining industry in 2024. We focus on optimizing processes and procedures, creating operational excellence and improving production to ultimately boost your bottom line and shore you up against whatever the coming year can dish out. Call us today to find out more.