Cape Town, South Africa - Italy has become the latest country to join the U.S.-led Mineral Security Partnership that promotes ethical mining. The U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Jose Fernandez, made the announcement while attending the Investing in African Mining Indaba, or conference.
In his keynote address, Fernandez said members of the Mineral Security Partnership - which now include Italy, 11 other countries and the European Union - will soon announce details of their environmental, social and governance principles.
He said the aim of the partnership, announced in June last year, was to add ethical values to the entire critical minerals and batteries value chain.
"We want to involve the communities affected by potential projects and the decision-making process. And if you were to say that we're doing this to protect our bottom line, you'd be partly right. We've seen too many instances around the world, some going on right now in South America, where community opposition has led to the closure of otherwise profitable mines," he said.
But Fernandez said the MSP also wants to protect the environment. He said in their meetings with potential partners, it's been clear that many companies want to do the right thing for the planet.
"They won't make investments in projects that destroy precious rain forests, that are not committed to the remediation of mines, that require pay-offs to government officials. They just won't do it. Their shareholders won't allow it. Their customers will reject them and our laws will punish such conduct," he said.
Fernandez said that's why many companies have joined the United States Public Private Alliance on responsible minerals trading.
"Companies such as Tesla going into the mining business for nickel to ensure the stability and transparency of supply chains. General Motors has made public commitments to sustainable sources. Ford and other car makers have also made similar promises," said Fernandez.
He said since beginning its work less than a year ago, the MSP has looked at 200 projects and chosen 12 to work on. He gave some examples of their work.
"Two east Asian countries are creating a critical minerals and metals cooperation center where one country will share critical expertise with the other. In the Pacific region, minerals production is booming and a couple of our partners are working together to develop battery materials and will work to attract transparent investment and trade in the Pacific. We're also looking at mid-stream processing in two key countries, one in Africa, the other in Latin America that could in fact revolutionize their work force development. MSP partners are also assembling a public private consortium to develop state of the art processing facility in Latin America to form a complete value chain in that region," he said.
Fernandez said that ethical conduct in this sector is critical as the world races to make an energy transition to stop rapid global warming.
Meanwhile, in his opening address at the event, South Africa's Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe stressed that South Africa is trying to end a long-running problem of frequent power outages. Daily power cuts have impacted mining production.
"It also impacts on the mood of the country. That's why as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, we've put four points that we think need attention if we are going to overcome load-shedding within the next 12 months. This will give them space to work on long-term energy security for the country," he said.
The Investing in African Mining Indaba ends on Thursday.