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Mining corporation CEO urges industry to invest in green technologies

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Jean-Sebastien Jacques, CEO of Rio Tinto Group, has warned industry leaders of “greater regulation and scrutiny” and urged that doing business in a more environmentally friendly way must be based on a pragmatic kind of sustainability, with profitability at its heart.

As the environmental pressure on the mining industry increases, signs for an onset of a wakeup call among executives surfaces.

Jacques, the CEO of the FTSE 100 company said that he has no doubt that “We will face greater regulation and scrutiny”, according to the executive's keynote speech at London Metal Exchange Week in London. 

He said the only way to tackle climate change is through partnership across the value chain. 

With its business in making aluminium and coal production, Rio Tinto is among a list of companies emitting large amounts of carbon emissions into the air.

The company has plans to implement greener technologies. It is looking into generating battery-grade lithium carbonate from waste rock in California and is testing new approaches at its Winu copper project in Australia, Jacques said.

In a statement published on the group's website, the company stated that: “We recognise that [climate change] is largely caused by human activities and has the potential for a lasting, negative impact on our business, our communities and the world. Indeed, from forest fires, to hurricanes, to loss of biodiversity, we are already experiencing some of these negative impacts”.

In February, it published its first climate change report considering recommendations laid out by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

“Society expects more of our industry which in turn brings with it a sea-change in shareholder expectations and more and more questions on our business model”, Jacques said. Since 2015, Rio pledged its support to the outcomes of the Paris Agreement and the long-term goal to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C.

Despite Jacques's warning words, there are still doubts about how far the company is willing to take its green agenda and how committed it really is to climate change mitigation. In a recent analysis, E&T together with InfluenceMap, a not-for-profit organisation, analysed how companies like Rio Tinto must embrace innovation and new technologies in order to keep growing in the coming years.

A representative at InfluenceMap said that Rio Tinto recently threatened to drop its membership of a certain lobbying organisation that “effectively captured and undermined the political process on climate change, whilst promoting an energy mix dependent on coal”, but that it still would remain a member. Rio Tinto, as well as BHP and Glencore, maintained their membership at the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and the Queensland Resources Council (QCR). 

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