SRK supports ESG journey through Africa-Asia collaboration

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With mining companies in Asia taking a growing interest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects of their operations, SRK Consulting engaged over 40 of its clients and other companies in a workshop dedicated to these topics in Beijing recently.

This followed an internal SRK knowledge-sharing workshop in which staff from its Asian and African offices discussed ways to integrate ESG issues into the company’s range of other resource-related disciplines. Vis Reddy, current chairman of SRK Consulting South Africa and now Africa regional coordinator at SRK Consulting, said the topics presented to clients included the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM), climate change and responsible sourcing.

“There is considerable concern about ESG issues among many of the Chinese-owned companies that operate in Africa,” said Reddy. “These workshops were an important way in which SRK’s Africa and Asia practices are jointly reaching out to clients with our experience and insights – to build ESG awareness and capability wherever we operate.”

Other related topics for discussion were water stewardship and mine closure – both growing in importance globally on the responsible mining agenda. With several China-based mining companies active in African countries, the sessions were able to draw on case studies from SRK’s work in Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo and sharing the challenges that Asian (Chinese) mining houses encounter when working on the continent and how these challenges can be overcome.

The Beijing workshop was in fact the second that SRK has held in China in as many years, with a session last year addressed by SRK South Africa managing director Andrew van Zyl, SRK DRC Director Wouter Jordaan and SRK China principal geologist Frank Li. According to SRK China managing director Pengfei Xiao, the focus on ESG in China’s mining sector is relatively young but many companies are now putting these policies in place.

“The real challenge for many companies is that, at this stage, they do not have much expertise or experience in practically integrating ESG into their daily operations,” said Pengfei. “We have therefore begun with sharing the insights of our ESG experts, making clients aware of the global benchmarks and how these are evolving – as well as the local requirements in specific countries.”

At the same time, he said, SRK China was building its capacity to deliver ESG-related services through engaging local expertise – and learning from colleagues in other practices. This was paving the way to providing assistance to clients at both corporate and operational levels.

Among the professionals involved in the workshop from SRK South Africa was partner and principal environmental scientist Philippa Burmeister, who emphasised the importance of building relationships not only with clients but with mining suppliers.

“Our visits to China give us better first-hand insight into available and evolving technologies – such as electric trucks – which clients may want to consider in their decarbonisation strategies,” said Burmeister. “Cities like Beijing are well populated with electric vehicles on the road, and this technology is fast reaching into other sectors and larger applications.”

China is already significantly advanced in the production of cleaner, renewable energy, according to  Li, with the International Energy Agency reporting that the country already produces about 23% of its electricity from renewable sources. This is another indication of its momentum towards embracing ESG principles in business.

Wouter Jordaan, a partner and leading environmental scientist at SRK South Africa, has contributed to the Asian workshops since the outset. He pointed out the increasing intricacies involved in adhering to ESG standards, mentioning that mining companies endeavoring to improve in these areas are frequently met with challenges.

“Evolving ESG standards and frameworks developed at global level – overlaid by different legislation and regulations on a national level – create a complicated terrain for mining companies to navigate,” he said. “Many mines struggle at site level with a range of operational challenges, and also face a range of compliance and policy requirements which are not negotiable. Our role has been to help clients understand what applies to them and the strategies required to be compliant – while also working to achieve international good practice standards.”

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