Between a rock and a hard place

Welcome to the future of mining

The global transition to renewable energy technologies is a hot topic as reality hits about how much more mining will be needed to service the transition.

There’s a very real risk of losing the mining sector’s hard-won advances in delivering environmental sustainability, social performance and good governance.

Introducing the Environmental and Sustainability Stream at the World Mining Congress, Tuesday through Thursday.

Professor Anna Littleboy, from The University of Queensland, says there’s a clash between the emergent mining boom needed for supplying critical minerals to make the materials, equipment, and technologies to deliver net-zero emissions and the timelines required to implement responsible mining practices.

“The volume of minerals we need for this transition is absolutely massive. It takes 25 years, on average, from finding a new deposit to getting it opened. So we will be at 2050 before we know it.”

“On one hand we are working to accelerate our minerals production to meet our commitments to net zero. On the other hand, we are tightening up our awareness of, and concerns about managing environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance issues.”

This puts us between a rock and a hard place, and Professor Littleboy says that if we are not careful, ESG may be a casualty of a rushed transition to renewables.

“We need to act, fast, on a global scale to meet climate change reduction commitments. But we must also ensure that at a local scale we don’t end up with worse environmental and social practices.”

“We must ensure that the people on the ground do not pay the price for global economic change, no matter how laudable the driver.”

Professor Littleboy is one of the convenors of the Environmental Sustainability and Governance stream at the World Mining Congress 2023 (WMC2023).  The ESG stream is pitching hard at both issues throughout the Congress with speakers addressing both global issues and the local impacts of mining practices.

Regional Scale Planning for Environmental Sustainability

Karen Hussey, Deputy Director General at Queensland Department of Environment and Science, (Wed 28 June, 1615) in Regional Scale Planning for Environmental Sustainability looks at how governments can support the mining sector in managing the challenges of environmental sustainability and good governance. What’s the current thinking, including policies and programs that match up government and private sector interests, where new technologies and modelling can enhance foundational approaches to planning, and how emerging environmental accounting tools and natural capital markets can support both sectors to realise outcomes for biodiversity protection, carbon emissions, and First Nations empowerment.

How do you measure “good” water performance in mining practice?

Most historical ESG metrics have focused on carbon emissions. Analysis by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) suggests that water could be one of the next big emerging issues for mining. Research shows that the demand for water-related metrics had increased by 1900% in 2021, greater than for any other sustainability priority in the study. Professor Nadja Kunz, (The University of British Columbia) will be addressing this issue – Defining Good Water Performers in Mining, and Why Efficiency Goals are Insufficient – including why measuring “good” water performance is conceptually more challenging than for carbon.  (Thu 29/ Jun, Keynote 11am)

Mining and the Sense of Place

How can we ensure that Indigenous peoples have equal input into the discussion on ESG principles ahead of final agreements on miners’ access to land.  Experience is showing that including Indigenous standards, knowledge, values and aspirations at all levels in both corporate decision-making, and in ESG frameworks, data collection and evaluation, leads to better outcomes for all stakeholders. In her presentation, Mining and the Sense of Place, Nalaine Morin, (Skeena Resources) will explore how this issue is emerging globally in the mining sector. (Tue 27 June, 1550 in Symposium)

Regeneration – Building Value Through Biodiversity

Environmental issues at mine sites are rarely funded well enough to address the risk. Yet environmental issues at a global scale (climate change, water scarcity, land availability, contamination, wastes, circularity) are driving the rise of ESG in mining.

How can we thinking differently about the impact of mining on our society, what is in those “waste streams” and how can they also be mined, through improved technology, systems management, and treatment streams?  In Regeneration – Building Value Through Biodiversity, Stephen D’Esposito, (Regeneration Enterprises) presents on how ReGenerate is building a new and highly innovative business reusing wastes from mining sites and moving to a circular economy model. (Thu 29 Jun 1400)

Good Governance Africa

Busisipho Iyobi, Programme Head of Natural Resource Governance, Good Governance Africa – participating in panel discussion (Tue 27 June,1645) – in the session Global Change Driving the Rise of ESG – priorities include building institutional capacity and robust resource governance mechanisms to reverse the resource curse; and emphasising the role of meaningful consultation processes to achieve value for local people.

About the Congress

The World Mining Congress was first held in 1958 in Poland. It has been held every two to three years ever since. It is UN-affiliated and continues to have a secretariat in Poland.

The 26th World Congress will be held for the first time in Australia, spanning the entire Brisbane Convention Centre from 26 to 29 June 2023. The Congress anticipates over 3000 participants from over 70 countries.

The Congress was brought to Australia with the support of the host, CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency. The Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources is our Major Sponsor and Queensland is our Host State Sponsor. A large suite of leading global and national companies and research agencies are also major sponsors of the Congress.

Inclusion of Congress speakers in media releases does not imply endorsement by the WMC, its hosts, partners and sponsors.

For more information and accreditation contact
Niall Byrne,,  +61-417-131-977 and visit