- Gen. Mark Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, expressed halfhearted confidence in the ANSF, describing Afghan forces as “reasonably well equipped, reasonably well trained, reasonably well led,” but said he wasn’t sure the Afghan military—or even government—would stay intact after a U.S. withdrawal.
- Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the Taliban’s “small harassing attacks” over the weekend weren’t going to stall the withdrawal.
- NSA Sullivan cautioned that “there’s still fair distance” between the U.S. and Iranian positions in talks to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement—in particular in settling on which sanctions can be lifted in exchange for which nuclear restrictions Iran will agree to impose. [So it does sound like Iranian media was putting the cart before the horse yesterday when it claimed the U.S. had agreed to lift sanctions on most individuals.]
- Turkey’s Foreign Minister visited his counterpart in Libya, Najla al-Manqoush, and al-Manqoush used a joint press conference they gave together to demand that Turkey pull its soldiers and mercenaries out of Libya before elections later this year. Turkish FM Cavusoglu seemed to brush off the demand with the excuse that Turkish forces were only there as part of a training agreement with Libya’s previous government.
- The Philippines’ bespectacled Foreign Minister launched into a Pres. Duterte-style expletive-laden tirade against China on Twitter: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE FUCK OUT. What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You. You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province…He doesn’t have a uterus. If he tried to give birth to a Chinese province it would be a ball of crap at best and the end of the regime.” [While Duterte has used this kind of language against U.S. and EU leaders, he’s actually been pretty cautious with his words when it comes to China; his top diplomat now seems less restrained.]
- The latest U.S. COVID news is that scientists and public health experts don’t think herd immunity is attainable in the U.S. in the near term: the current threshold for herd immunity is at least 80% (given new variants), but around 30% of the U.S. population is reluctant to be vaccinated.
- However, vaccinations are going smoothly among the 70% that isn’t hesitant to get a shot, and the FDA is poised to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15-year-olds next week.
- Separately, Pres. Biden reversed course on a decision last week to keep Pres. Trump’s cap on refugees at 15,000. Instead, Biden plans to raise that limit to admit up to 62,500 new refugees over the next six months.
- A good post pasted below argues for a more pragmatic approach to risk analysis in challenging places like DRC that supply large shares of the world’s critical minerals: “will fortune favour the brave?”
- Danish mass-market jeweler Pandora announced it would use only lab-grown diamonds by 2022 in the UK, and will completely switch to lab-grown stones in other markets thereafter. It cited ethics concerns with diamond mining, but Pandora already uses lab-grown stones in 99.94% of the pieces it sells, so this announcement is probably more about proving woke credentials to millennial consumers than defining a major corporate shift.
- A metro overpass collapsed in Mexico City, killing at least 23. Some of the outrage over the incident is being directed at Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who was the mayor of Mexico City when that metro line was built.
Mining risk – will fortune favour the brave? (African Mining Market)
As philosopher Maimonides once said, “the risk of a wrong decision is preferable the terror of indecision”. However, it appears the mining industry disagrees and is erring on the side of indecision. Why do I say this? At an industry level, there seems to be a reticence around investing sufficient capital to develop future supply at the pace and scale demanded by the energy transition.
Such inaction in itself carries risks: failing to invest now will endanger the future supply of a number of commodities critical to achieving the ambitious net zero goals set by government and investors alike.
So, why is the industry so wracked by apparent doubt – and can a better balance between risk and reward be found?
Past sins and open promises are driving industry behaviour
An aversion to risk in general – and to repeating the sins of the past in terms of capital destruction in particular – appears to be holding back the mining industry. This is compounded by investors who, having been promised consistent dividend distribution through the cycle, are now hooked on the drug.
Expansion capex is in very short supply, with miners starving themselves of the capital they need to develop future supply. As I’ve noted previously, the gap between current capex commitments and what’s needed to deliver a two-degree pathway (where the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times is limited to 2 °C) amounts to almost US$2 trillion over the next 15 years.
Is risk passé, or here to stay?
The assessment of risk is both relative and absolute and comes with a large dose of perception. Given the challenge of project development, particularly around the issue of ESG risk, there is a narrative in some circles that risk is somehow passé, that what counts most is whether you can actually mine in a given jurisdiction.
I’ve reflected on this a great deal. I don’t think risk itself is passé – in fact it’s very much front of mind for investors, most of whom recognise the interplay between risk and reward but err on the side of caution. I do agree that the ability to actually mine is hugely important. However, I would argue that risk comes first: the fact you are comfortable proceeding with a project, particularly in a higher risk jurisdiction, means you have already overcome risk hurdles and are comfortable with the risk-reward matrix presented. Only in that sense is risk passé.
ESG risks: a minefield for mining industry stakeholders
Our sister company Verisk Maplecroft undertakes a quantitative assessment of risk that takes into consideration all three ESG components (environmental, social and governance). The results are represented as a heat map, which is reproduced below. As you can see, there are few places on the planet where mining companies can develop and operate mines with low ESG risk.
Risk: an intersect between subjectivity, objectivity and perspective
Of course, appetite for risk varies – as do opinions about the degree of risk inherent in any given project. For example, a small band of players have license to and appetite for operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – as well as domestic firms, Chinese, Russian and one or two Western players operate mines in the country.
Operating there and adhering to higher ESG standards than would otherwise be put in place could arguably have a de-risking effect. However, ultimately the DRC is viewed as a high-risk jurisdiction that most governments, investors, lenders and miners avoid – despite its extensive high-grade copper and cobalt resources. While the players operating there would, I am sure, argue that the DRC attaches manageable risk, the problem is that it does not matter whether they are comfortable with the DRC risk profile, what really matters is the fact that the broadly held view is that it is high risk.
Stakeholders must work together to de-risk supply
I would argue that, given the need to meet tough decarbonisation and ESG targets, Western governments, lenders, investors and consumers will need to get comfortable operating in jurisdictions where ESG issues are more complex.
Government support to de-risk investments in certain countries is a necessary catalyst to enable mining in as ESG-compliant a way as possible. Intergovernmental agreements, low-cost loans, export credit arrangements and other measures will enable stakeholders to obtain the guarantees they need to mitigate risk.
What naturally follows is that consumers and society become more comfortable that mining in these jurisdictions is being done ‘the right way’. Then, and only then, will the West be able to secure sufficient volumes of the raw materials needed to pursue the energy transition in the timescales envisaged. Essentially, the West could take a leaf out of China’s book in securing the necessary supply chain, albeit ensuring far higher ESG standards are applied.
This would involve governments curbing their natural reticence about stepping directly into business, and perhaps looking at risk through a different lens. “Fortes fortuna adiuvat”, as the Roman proverb says – fortune favours the brave – and bravery always comes with some risk. But with China already setting the pace in the energy transition race for raw materials, doing nothing is not an option for the West.