Mining and ESG: YellowYellow Key Takeaways from PDAC 2023

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Our team at YellowYellow attended the recent PDAC Conference (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) in Toronto where ESG was at the forefront of discussions. Thanks to everyone who shared a coffee with us or spoke candidly about their first-hand experiences. We generated terrific and meaningful connections and are looking forward to continuing the conversation in the coming weeks and months.

PDAC Top Four Takeaways

YellowYellow’s PDAC experience was fruitful. We learned an abundance from networking, talks, and the overall conference. We thought best to share our insights across YellowYellow internally, and with our community externally in a blog post. 

The conference brought together mining leaders and experts to address the question “Is ESG outdated?” 

Here are our top four (4) takeaways:

1. Changes in Mining Regulation and Permitting

In the past 40 years, regulation and permitting have shifted from federal to local levels. This reversal gives smaller companies more power and helps them compete with larger firms. Companies are also focusing on compliance, designing mines with refurbishment in mind and knowing what it will be turned into after it closes in 20+ years.

To say that ESG and Sustainability were hot topics at PDAC would be an understatement. ESG was everywhere. Keynotes, sessions, and surrounding events addressed environmental, social and governance issues impacting mining companies and investors. Topics ranged from impacts on Indigenous communities to sector ratings. Notably, Miller Thomson hosted an ESG & Mining breakfast, and Dentons ran an ESG & Mining breakout session. YellowYellow team members were on-site learning and discussing these real changes and impacts for the mining industry for our present and future mining clients. 

We also took a pulse. How does the mining sector feel about ESG? We found that PDAC attendees know they must pay attention to ESG. Generally speaking, those who we spoke to find ESG important, but they are uncertain and frustrated with how to comply. For example, applying for and permitting a mine is a long and winding process, made “worse” by sustainability politics and regulations locally and nationally in all parts of the world. Transparency is needed. It is clear that while sustainability progress can be a complicated journey in the mining sector, the drive to be more sustainable is stronger than ever, and YellowYellow is here to help make this transition smoother.

2. ESG Has Become a Business Imperative

Data shows that companies pushing for ESG have not experienced negative share prices, and public opinion is strong on greener technologies. This rings true in the mining sector. Shareholders are less likely to invest unless companies have laid out an ESG framework in recent years. Commonly, mining companies examine economic benefits, protecting health and safety, Indigenous land rights, human rights, and the environment when looking towards new projects and potential mining locations.

We collected further “feet on the streets” intel. Why is the mining sector pushing for ESG policies and programs? It comes down to increasing profitability and reducing risk. Anecdotally, several mining companies told us that, “We need an ESG policy to win new bids for business.” ESG commitments must be tight and transparent. Sustainability plans and reports are commonly the job of a generalist project leader. These plans and commitments live on a mining company’s website, and as part of their pitch to investors and lenders. 

The case is clear for sustainability. But, what to disclose and track? Knowing which ESG and sustainability metrics and frameworks to use is muddy. We heard, “Our investors want us to have ESG KPIs, so we came up with a list (from thin air) and agreed on them together. Now we track our performance on these KPIs.” The mining sector will greatly benefit from using a universal standard or framework to increase transparency, improve decisions-usefulness of the data, and encourage comparability across mines. For example, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) is producing a global baseline for sustainability disclosure. Its goal is to eliminate the fragmented nature of sustainability data and context today. This will make clear what data is financially material for the benefit of all. 

3. Automation of Sustainability Data

With the surge of pressure to create sustainability goals and measure progress, companies that can pull disparate data together are in a great spot to grow their user base. Data required for a sustainability report is both structured and unstructured in nature. Some data lives in PDFs, in accounting and ERP systems, and others are anecdotal evidence in emails. Multiple departments are called upon for their input when compiling a full sustainability report. HR, Marketing, Finance, Risk, Communications, Engineering, and other departments all must provide their input to properly disclose a firm’s environmental, social and governance impacts and practices. 

Financial reporting has long been automated. Sustainability reporting – which is arguably more complex – is finally now receiving the same treatment. Software platforms integrating, reviewing, and communicating this data will serve as a game-changer for reporting companies. We also learned about the need for IoT (Internet of Things) sensors within the mining operations. Having real-time data, which connects to sustainability platforms, can expose efficiencies. Even Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays an important role. Based on targets and norms, AI within this sustainability technology can eliminate lower value work – paving the way for more strategic business planning.  

4. Next Generation's View on ESG and Mining

The next generation is more aware and educated on ESG than the mining industry. ESG should be more regulated than voluntary. Everyone benefits from a holistic view of ESG. At PDAC and beyond, YellowYellow saw a significant push towards sustainable mining practices (remediation efforts, mine repurposing, meeting GHG targets, etc). Mining companies need to recognize that it’s not just about profit, but the right choice to make.

The decision to open a mine in a community should not be taken lightly. We heard it first hand in a session at PDAC. “Opening a mine is a 20+ year relationship with that environment, and that community.” The mines, their investors, and surrounding businesses that will be around in 5-10 years will be those that see mining and ESG working together. Profits come from being “good.” This message is an important one as YellowYellow left the conference and got back to our important work. 

Next Steps: How Can We Help

Overall, PDAC 2023 brought the conversation on ESG practices to the forefront of the mining industry, and YellowYellow is excited to be a part of that conversation. 

YellowYellow is a boutique ESG consulting firm. We have 8 team members, all with expert knowledge across sustainability, ESG, mining, geology, carbon capture, CAPEX and OPEX, technology, and beyond. Our Principal, Lisa Annabel Ellis, is a member of Artemis Project and we have proudly worked on several Canadian mining projects over our 3 year tenure.

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Jeff Garcia-Seminario

Associate

He holds a Bachelor of Anthropology from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru) and a Masters in Science in Sustainability and Responsibility  (Ashridge Business School, UK).   As a lifelong learner, he recently completed a Global Business Management (High Honours) at Seneca College in Toronto. 

Jeff brings global experience in leading corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community engagement projects in the extractive sector.   Jeff excels in stakeholder mapping, community engagement, and conflict resolution.   Applying his private and public sector experiences, Jeff can bridge cultural and historical divides between extractive industries and their communities.  His areas of focus include food security, sustainable procurement, and good governance. Most recently, Jeff contributed to the development of an ESG strategy for a multi-national company.  

Jeff’s native language is Spanish. He enjoys morning runs in the neighbouring parks.

Kaitlyn D'Lima

Associate

Kaitlyn D’Lima holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science and Sustainability Management degree from the University of Toronto.   She is also trained in greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting.

She brings extensive experience in sustainability and business transformational projects. She is known for her ability to execute projects of any size with both urgency and accuracy.   Kaitlyn has a natural talent for improving stakeholder engagement. She’s a real trailblazer when it comes to benchmarking and research.

Kaitlyn is a runner who participates in outdoor adventure races.

Arun Balu Pazhayannur

Advisor

Arun B Pazhayannur holds a degree in mechanical engineering and is a Chartered Accountant. He also has an MBA from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. Along with his academic achievements, he has a thorough knowledge of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles, which he incorporates into his consulting work. 

Arun is well-known for his leadership abilities as well as his strong skills in data analysis, financial modeling, and operations management. He has been recognized for his ability to identify practical solutions and deliver value to clients ranging from banks to payment companies to software providers. Arun is also a past President of Toastmasters Club. 

In his free time, Arun enjoys scuba diving.In his spare time, Arun likes to scuba dive. 

Gregory Donovan

Senior Advisor

Gregory  Donovan is a Chartered Accountant. He is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Credential Holder.  He obtained an Honours in Business Adminstrations (HBA) from the Ivey Business School (Western University) and a Master or Laws (LLM) from the London School of Economics. Gregory is the CEO of Avondale Private Capital, a sustainable finance firm focused on energy transition finance and carbon markets.  He has presented on these topics at conferences in Canada, the US and UK.  

Greg participates in the occasional triathlon and loves to go skiing and sailing with his two young children.

Margaux Loptson

Associate & US Operations Lead

Margaux Loptson holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts (Criminology) from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, she holds several research certifications, including Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans

She has been an essential player in AI-powered teaching and learning projects as a User Experience (UX) lead.  Margaux is known for applying her design thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills to make a positive impact. She is a native French speaker

Margaux is a fitness enthusiast who can be found hiking around Central Park in NYC.

Ritika Jain

Associate / Responsible Supply Chain Lead

Ritika Jain holds a Masters in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from Lund University (Sweden)  and a Bachelor of Technology from Indraprastha University (India). As a lifelong learner, she is pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Toronto.

Ritika is a recycling and responsible supply chain specialist.  Through her work, she collaborates with organizations to implement circular economy focused policies to ensure compliance with regulations.  

Her proficiency in data analytics and with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) enable her to manage complex sustainability data. Ritika also volunteers with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, engaging with youth to drive positive change.  

Ritika is a native Hindi speaker.  She is a certified hiking leader who enjoys travelling.

Jonathan Spence

Associate & Western Canada Operations Lead

Jonathan Spence holds an Honours Bachelor of Integrated Sciences (Earth and Environmental Sciences) from McMaster University and has his certification in Geographic Information Sciences from the ESRI Canada Center of Excellence at McMaster University. Jonathan worked as a research analyst in the environment and sustainability group for a TSX listed company.  

He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, where he is researching the development of carbon capture techniques and their applications to the mining industry.  Jonathan is focused on helping companies to minimize their carbon footprint while supporting their economic growth.   

Jonathan is an avid water polo player and coach. He plays for the local National Championship League team. 

Gurnoor Gandhi

VP Business Development & Strategic Partnerships

Gurnoor Gandhi holds an MBA from Ivey Business School (Western University) and a postgraduate diploma in Maritime Energy Management (Sweden). Gurnoor brings experience with sustainability frameworks including TCFD, GRI, and CDP and is pursuing FSA credential (SASB). 

Gurnoor has global leadership experience in the shipping industry managing assets worth millions of dollars on the high seas and has led diverse teams worked in Monaco, Singapore, and India. Most recently, he led organizational development and client partnerships at CARD, a non-profit focused on rural development and renewable energy.

Gurnoor brings a blend of technical and leadership skills. He applied his knowledge of greenhouse gas accounting and carbon capture to support clients with niche energy transition projects. He is known for putting his problem-solving, stakeholder management, and project management skills to work to help firms expedite their ESG Journey. 

Gurnoor is a certified BMW adventure motorcyclist who finds off-road rides rejuvenating for body and spirit.  He enjoys hiking with his family.

Lisa-Annabel Ellis

Founder & CEO

Lisa Annabel Ellis holds an Honours Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Ivey Business School (Western University). She is a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) with a Six Sigma Green Belt. Lisa is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Level II Candidate. Applying her deep expertise in business and operational strategies, she has led award-winning transformational initiatives.

Drawing on her well-rounded science and finance expertise, she launched YellowYellow to help clients advance their sustainability practices. As an advocate of transparency and good governance, she partners with clients to understand their risks and opportunities to generate superior long-term value. Stakeholders across the value chain recognize the impact of this effort. She has been called upon to be a keynote speaker and lecturer.

Lisa is an advanced scuba diver who enjoys most water-related sports.