"The management of environmental, health, safety, social and technical aspects within the mining industry is growing beyond just compliance and economics, and issues such as carbon footprint reduction, climate change, and renewable energy sources must be evaluated and factored into the life of mine plans, and integrating the mine with the needs of local communities."
How did business evolve for Santa Barbara Consultants in 2020?
2020 was a challenging year for Santa Barbara Consultants, especially when the pandemic first hit in March and April. At that time, most of our mining clients were rightfully preoccupied with developing and implementing the necessary COVID-19 protocols, however, beginning in Q3, we observed an increased interest our in health and safety evaluation services, due diligence and mine closure work.
The context of high metals prices combined with a pent-up demand brought back a palpable sense of optimism to the market and plans that were meant to be implemented earlier in 2020 received the green light to proceed towards the end of the year. In the last 12 months, we have provided services to a number of clients including GyM, Kinross and Southern Peaks Mining, along with several other clients on due diligence assignments.
How have mining processes been adapted to place a greater emphasis on worker health and wellbeing, instead of just injury prevention?
Most mining companies have generally done a good job in terms of managing occupational health; however, the pandemic was a real wake up call to the entire industry, and we noticed a much greater demand for our occupational health expertise and services. For example, the pandemic brought about a sharpened focus on all aspects related to the movement of employees; not just at mine sites, but also while workers are at home with their families. Remote work has also advanced, such as mine dispatch centers from home offices, and I believe this trend will continue even when the virus is under control. All of this has resulted in a heighted awareness within the industry on the need for a more proactive and comprehensive approach to occupational health and the value that such programs can add to a mining operation, not only in terms of risk management and cost savings, but in maintaining and retaining an engaged, healthy, and motivated workforce.
What advice would you give to companies in Peru regarding social bottlenecks and permitting?
The priority in terms of managing the social aspects related to mining is effective communications with stakeholders. Mining companies should engage with local communities as early as possible and promote dialogue regarding the community’s long-term vision; in other words, involve the stakeholders in project planning instead of trying to impose the project. At the end of the day, the communities and governments have the final say, and without their approval you will not be able to start operations even if you have permits, as we have seen in the cases of Minas Conga, Tambo Grande, and most recently, Tía María. A sense of buy-in and support from local stakeholders will come if they can see the economic benefits of the project, and if it is clear that the project will not negatively impact the environment.
Exploration and Mine Permitting in Peru presents a similar challenge that also requires proactive communications; conversations with the regulators should be started early and intentions outlined clearly. It is important to have realistic expectations regarding the permitting timeline, as the permitting process can be bureaucratic, complicated and highly unpredictable.
What would you say differentiates Santa Barbara Consultants from some of the bigger mining consultancies?
Santa Barbara Consultants is a team of “miners helping miners”. This gives us practical expertise related to both mining operations and projects, in addition to hands on technical experience in managing the challenges faced by mining companies in Latin America. This combination of experience and expertise allows us to view things strategically.
Which areas of the business do you see as having good potential for growth?
Santa Barbara Consultants is always looking for new talent, especially for professionals that have hands-on experience in mining projects and operations.
The management of environmental, health, safety, social and technical aspects within the mining industry is growing beyond just compliance and economics, and issues such as carbon footprint reduction, climate change, and renewable energy sources must be evaluated and factored into the life of mine plans, and integrating the mine with the needs of local communities. We believe that these areas offer tremendous opportunities for growth in the coming years, supported by the robust outlook for metals usage in the green economy.