An interesting story is told in the book “Our Iceberg Is Melting” by John Kotter, the award-winning author from Harvard Business School. The story is set in Antarctica, on an iceberg where a colony of emperor penguins had lived for a long time. The iceberg was the only home they had ever known. The story unfolded with a curious and observant penguin discovering that the iceberg they were living on had melted in some places and was about to fall apart.

Once the penguins came to understand that their iceberg was melting, they 1) created a sense of urgency in the colony to deal with the complex problem, 2) put a group in charge of navigating the change, 3) found a realistic vision of a better future, 4) communicated that vision so others would understand and accept it, 5) removed as many obstacles to action as was practical, 6) created some success quickly, 7) never let up until the new way of life was firmly established, and, 8) finally, ensured that stubborn, hard-to-die traditions would not overcome the changes.

While this book may have been written specifically for organizational change, this story shares an uncanny resemblance with the world we find ourselves in today. Our iceberg is melting, literally! Lots need to be done immediately by everyone alive to deal with the challenges emanating from climate change. The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses, and individuals seem to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis similarly – but history tells us that humans do not respond to slow-moving and distant threats.

Governments and stakeholders alike have to take climate change more seriously by reflecting on the Paris Agreement and taking stock of their efforts to reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. They have sought to achieve this primarily through deploying renewable forms of energy, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. However, as the demand for renewable energy continues to grow, mining is one primary industry that faces a watershed moment in the transformation to green ways of operating.

The mining sector has struggled with its image as a “dirty” industry for years. Mines can be hazardous for those who work in them and damage the surrounding environment, including greenhouse gas emissions. After all, mining is key to the growth of renewable energy, as green technology heavily relies on certain metals and minerals. For example, solar power depends on supplying aluminum, copper, and certain rare earth elements to produce PV panels. Similarly, wind turbines are made from steel, and their manufacture relies on the extraction of iron and certain rare-earth elements such as neodymium which are needed for the magnets used inside turbine generators. More generally, copper is essential to all power generation infrastructure and electric vehicle (EV) technology.

In light of this, how can the mining sector embrace a green way forward?

The industry’s bad boy image will need to change to survive, which means improving its brand by prioritizing green and customer-centric strategies. A significant challenge will be earning consumers’ trust by committing to environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) standards. Banks and investors are exercising pressure by reviewing their portfolios to ensure that their investments are ESG-friendly. Just recently, Goldman Sachs and BlackRock announced new sustainable investment strategies, including lowering direct investment to fossil fuel companies and thermal coal producers. From this, it seems that the pressure is there for transformation in the sector as governments are also changing their policies in favor of clean mining.

Another way to embrace green ways of operating would be to make more improvements and advances in storage capacities for energy. This will improve efficiency and energy security so that gaps are filled when generation from renewable sources is lower. Erratic energy can have significant impacts on a country’s economy as well as socio-political conditions. Southern Africa is no stranger to periodic rolling power cuts that, in some cases, have resulted in shutdowns for many businesses, including several large mines operated by Impala Platinum. Until the energy efficiency innovation rate catches up, the mining sector and fossil fuels will need to fill in the gaps to prevent energy shortages.

Another severe challenge the industry faces is consumer concern about the effect of mining on climate change due to high carbon emissions. Mining is an energy-intensive industry, and its energy demand is estimated to increase by 30% by 2035 due to growing mineral requirements. By reducing its environmental impact, the sector will also improve its publicity. In general, mining companies should aim to run their operations using renewable sources, and some of the ways include:

  • self-generation – whereby the renewable source is built near the mine and is owned by the mining company;
  • industrial pooling – where several mining companies commit to buy renewable electricity from the producer, ensuring that the construction of a renewable project is viable;
  • renewable power purchase agreements – where the mining company contracts with a renewable power producer committing to buy electricity based on the contractual terms

By committing to environmentally-friendly initiatives and making the public aware of their success stories, the miners can change the narrative and make it known that they are taking the transformation seriously and are committed to continuing.

Consumers may not realize the role of mining in supplying technologies that are championed for a sustainable future. As such, the industry can, and should, do more in communicating the change, and its role, in meeting existing and emerging consumer needs, whether those relate to mining lithium for energy storage or copper essential for the creation of wind turbines.
The mining industry faces significant challenges in an era dominated by climate change. However, metals and minerals are essential for a renewable, efficient, energy-secure future. So instead of listening to calls to extinguish the mining industry, we should be restoring faith in it by transforming its reputation from a “dirty” industry to one concentrating on “green,” sustainable, and customer-centric practices. In so doing, we will prevent our iceberg from melting.

As a socially responsible organization that embraces sustainable ways of operating, we are in a position to help organizations transform their operations into greener ways of working. So please reach out to us at, and let’s chat.