TZMI 18: Social, environmental aspects key concerns for explorers, miners

By Cameron Perks
Published: Thursday, 20 December 2018

Iluka's labor strike in Sierra Leone was highlighted as well as Amnesty International's report, with an announcement from Base Resources investment in the local community.

Presentations at the TZMI 2018 Congress by producer Base Resources and explorers Sheffield Resources and Kalbar Resources have highlighted the growing importance of environmental and social aspects in the success of existing and upcoming projects in the heavy mineral sand space.

The event in Singapore was hosted by independent consultant TZMI on November 12-14.

The positive management of these aspects has been highlighted by Iluka’s labor strike incident in Sierra Leone, Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals labor dispute in South Africa, a report by Amnesty International on Chinese heavy mineral mining in Mozambique, and the planned shutdown in 2020 of existing miner Sibelco on Queensland’s Stradbroke Island because of community-led environmental concerns.

In order to avoid disruptions to supply, Australian mineral sand producer Base Resources said that it has made great efforts to invest in the local community in Kenya, where it operates. The company has invested $3.8 million in community and environmental programs such as tree-planting and agricultural initiatives, building projects and scholarships.

The company has announced that it has already begun to prepare a community development plan for its Toliara mineral sands project in Madagascar, which it hopes to bring into production by the end of 2021.

Sheffield Resources presenting local artwork to customers 
Another producer, Southern Ionics, told Fastmarkets on the conference sidelines that its environmental stewardship policies were a core value of the company, and that it took great pride in its efforts toward remediation, impact mitigation, permitting and compliance, as well as education and outreach.

The company engages regularly with environmental groups as well as the community, welcoming people to tour its facilities, and says that these policies are key to the company’s success and its future.

Sheffield Resources has also demonstrated that it is taking community and environmental aspects very seriously. On the opening night of TZMI’s 2018 congress, the company presented its customers with artwork created by its local community in Australia.

The initiative was part of an effort to recognize the Kimberly region’s rich Aboriginal history, which includes a strong tradition of art, song, dance and storytelling.

The company will encourage each customer to meet 'their’ artist when they visit West Kimberley to see the Thunderbird operation, and the supply chain and export facilities at the Derby and Broome ports.

Elsewhere, Kalbar Resources presented its deposit in Victoria, Australia, as one which would offer enormous economic benefits to the local community, which is mostly a farming society. The deposit would send about 550,000 tonnes per year of heavy mineral concentrate to China over a 15-year mine life, beginning in 2020, and has environmental approvals "on track."

The next steps for the project include an environmental approval submission to come in February 2019, with statutory approvals due in the third or fourth quarter of the same year.

Kalbar has made significant efforts to engage with the local community by hosting informal groups and individual information sessions, displaying environmental study results online as well as producing a regular newsletter.

Forefront issue

The increasingly important role that environmental and social factors play in determining the viability of a project is becoming a forefront issue, demonstrated by a large number of presentations at this year’s TZMI congress.

This comes as many companies battle against declining grades, declining value of mineral assemblages and a higher percentage of contaminants in the final products.

Exploration and mining companies must, therefore, balance their social and environmental responsibilities with their obligations toward their financial stakeholders. Companies are increasingly finding the most effective and efficient ways of managing all of these important factors, but much more is needed if supply security is to be ensured.