The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum herald a shift towards a tighter definition of economic value, at the expense of the broader value concept of sustainable development; as well as a rise of protectionism, reversing a long-term trend of globalisation. However, the situation is complex, especially over the longer term in which mine project development and exploration operates. The minerals sector should proceed with caution. A greater focus on the local impacts of mining may be strategically beneficial, not only to mitigate against a potential protectionist future, but also because sustainable development has become more ‘localist’ via the concept of ‘social licence to operate’, whilst globalisation also seems to provoke increased ‘localist’ sentiments (known as ‘glocalism’). Localist strategies, therefore, seem a good hedge against multiple political futures. By contrast, moving away from sustainable development appears strategically riskier. Not only are ‘unsustainable’ activities, such as pollution and civil rights infringements harder to reverse, but a movement towards a more sustainable global economy may already be predetermined, even if the journey there may seem oblique. It appears that the increased economic development that is coveted globally is intrinsically linked to a rise in environmental and social consciousness.
Sykes, J P, Trench, A, McCuaig, T C and Jessell, M, 2017. Charles Dickens on the (potentially) changing role of globalisation and sustainability in the long-term future of mining and exploration, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 239–256 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).