From Challenges to Solutions: ESG Perspectives on Latin America's Mining

The Santiago Center, SIPA’s CGEP, and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez’ Business School led a roundtable to address the region’s complexities.

November 27, 2023

Mining has long played a pivotal role in Latin American economies, contributing significantly to fiscal revenues, industrial development, and employment. Now, as the world transitions to renewable energy, the sector is poised to be at the forefront, with the increasing demand for minerals essential in manufacturing batteries, solar panels, and powering electric grids. Latin America, particularly in the supply of copper and lithium, stands as a potential key player in this global shift.

However, the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations of the mining sector present substantial challenges to its sustained growth and the mobilization of higher levels of financing. Recognizing this, the Santiago Center collaborated with the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and the Business and Society Center at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI), to lead a roundtable about ESG Challenges in Latin America’s Mining Sector. Together, they organized an invitation-only roundtable at the beginning of November to delve into the ESG Challenges in Latin America’s Mining Sector.

Nearly fifty representatives from the financial sector, local and international mining companies, multilateral organizations, academia, and other stakeholders participated in the event. The roundtable focused on addressing the region’s most pressing ESG challenges and exploring strategies for improvement.

The event began with welcoming remarks from Tom Trebat, the interim director of the Santiago Center, and Juan Carlos Jobet, CGEP Distinguished Visiting Fellow and Dean at UAI’s Business School. Luisa Palacios, Senior Research Scholar at CGEP, moderated the first session titled “A Close Look at the ‘E’ in ESG.” Participants shared insights on best practices necessary to enhance ESG transparency for investors and other stakeholders. The discussion covered local and international reporting requirements, regulations improving ESG metrics transparency, and how mining companies are addressing environmental risks, including the commitments and targets they are setting. Comparative evaluations of the region’s mining sector in terms of managing environmental risks relative to other regions were also explored.

In the final part of the roundtable, Magdalena Aninat, Director of UAI’s Center on Business and Society, moderated the session “Understanding the Social and Governance Performance in the Region’s Mining Sector.” Attendees discussed critical aspects of the social dimension of ESG for mining companies operating in the region, strategies for adding social value in local communities, and the challenges impacting governance in Latin America’s mining sector. The session also addressed feasible improvements in these areas.

Looking to provide valuable insights into the ESG challenges faced by the mining sector in Latin America, Palacios and Aninat authored a comprehensive report on the roundtable and its main takeaways. The publication is available in English and Spanish to read and download.