Through the ESG Lens – Mining Companies In Action to Fight COVID-19

By Ani Markova, CFA, MBA, CDI.D. She is an award-winning portfolio manager who spent more than 15 years investing in the global mining and metals sector.  She is currently an independent board member of SilverCrest Metals and Golden Star Resources.  

At this time when the world is dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic, let’s talk about the “S” in the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) disclosures in the mining sector. The “S” is about the human element that represents the business and the surrounding communities. It is us, the humans, who find the resources, create jobs, solve hunger, protect the environment and balance the capital investments and returns. Yet, this is the most difficult category to quantify and one that is often overlooked by ESG investors.

For many years, the mining industry has been the backbone of our progress providing societies with the raw materials needed to build infrastructure, transportation and new technologies, as well as accumulate wealth and enjoy luxury. There is no one who understands better the social impact of the mines on the local communities and the cost of having a social license to operate than those same mining companies.  Doing the right thing is not always the easiest or the cheapest thing to do, as local employees and remote communities look up to the mining companies to build schools and community centers, set up hospitals, provide clean water, fix roads, help support local businesses and many other functions. These efforts provide remote communities alternative income to hunting wildlife to extinction, polluting rivers, chopping or burning rain forests in order to feed families.

Right now, the “S” is again in the spotlight – how do we protect our people and save lives? In an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19, mining companies across the globe are shutting down operations either voluntarily or in support of government protocols. Companies are maintaining, where possible, critical support to local economies in locations that may be rural or impoverished and less-equipped for this pandemic.

I am very proud of the team at SilverCrest who rallied around the local communities and sought meaningful ways to support their efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some of the efforts continue to include the supply of material for the sewing of face masks and protective clothing, supporting the “stay-at-home” guidelines, suppling cleaning materials, medication, medical equipment and logistics equipment.   

I am also extremely pleased to see how the team at Golden Star has leveraged their experience dealing with Ebola to set protocols for COVID-19, to mobilize the entire supply chain and local employees to work with communities to educate and prepare them for a potential outbreak. The help comes in many forms: provision of education and materials, installation of hand hygiene facilities, production of hand sanitizers and face masks and providing other support to national health authorities.

I believe that our efforts today will pay off tomorrow through having a healthy workforce and a social license to operate! Our job today is to be engaged, to inspire thoughtful leadership throughout our organizations and to support every one of our colleagues in the effort of doing the right thing – whatever that might be. Thinking about tomorrow, the way we handle the “S” today will help us enrich our corporate cultures to better handle the rest of the ESG factors and set strategies to access new sources of capital for sustainable re-investments. Sharing our successes and learning from our challenges will help us build the organizations we inspire to be part of.  We are in this together – vulnerable to setbacks, but more resilient when we work together. Let’s share our stories.