Beat Kälin is Norge Mining’s new Chief Sustainability Officer. His mission is to make sure ESG permeates every aspect of the company’s operations, as it investigates potentially large reserves of three EU Critical Raw Materials in southern Norway (vanadium, phosphorus and titanium).
Q. What’s your background and how has ESG changed over the years?
A. I have more than 30 years’ experience in capital markets. As well as being appointed as Norge Mining’s Chief Sustainability Officer, I own and run an Asset Management company called Turicum Investment Management AG. As part of my training, I studied sustainability. Back in the 1990s, ESG was emerging as important criteria for some clients. It was early days, but socially responsible investing was starting to be talked about then. In fact, we were one of only few companies that offered sustainable asset management all those years ago. Now it’s front of everyone’s minds. Everyone has to have a fair share – not just the shareholders!
Q. ESG can sometimes seem like jargon because it’s so overused. What does ESG mean to Norge Mining?
A. For Norge Mining, it’s the coming together of the people, society, politics and nature. We have to balance all these, so they work symbiotically together. We need to make sure people are on board – the local community and the government. First and foremost, they need to be happy, understand the benefit and buy in to the process. And then, of course, we need to endeavour that the environment is protected every step of the way. If any land is damaged during our operations, it’s recompensed immediately. It is possible to make money, pay local employees decent wages and protect the land and wildlife. At Norge Mining, this balancing act has to work, otherwise we couldn’t continue.
Q. In terms of how Norge Mining is adhering to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, what are the most interesting developments?
A. For me, the possibility of providing Europe with vanadium for use in clean energy storage is hugely exciting. Vanadium flow batteries can recharge multiple times and are huge – allowing the storage of enormous amounts of wind power. Vanadium batteries could also become a viable alternative for electric vehicles in the future. Their main benefit is that they don’t lose their capacity – or degrade – as quickly as lithium-ion ones; they can also be easily reused. In terms of providing ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ (SDG 7), vanadium is ticking many boxes. Then there’s phosphorus – phosphate fertilisers are a natural catalyst to feeding our burgeoning global population, but the mineral supply is finite. In terms of SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), we are looking forward to the time when we can confidently know whether our phosphorus deposits in Norway are as large as we believe them to be.
Q. What is the most important SDG for Norge Mining?
A. All the UN SDGs are important; it’s hard to state that one should be given greater prominence than another. However, SDG 13 – Climate Action – is perhaps the most pertinent. Norge Mining’s investigations in Norway so far are looking highly promising. Two of the three EU Critical Raw Materials we are exploring are vital to the EU’s Green Strategy. That’s why we don’t just advocate on climate change; we are taking action to provide safe, secure, neighbourly supplies of minerals that have a high risk currently associated with their supply – but that are also key ingredients for Europe’s sustainable future.
Q. What’s been your priority since you started a couple of months ago as CSO?
A. I’ve been going through the contracts of our partners to check all sustainability aspects and to make sure they are all abiding by the ESG rules. I am pleased to say they are acting in an impeccable way as our exploration into vanadium, phosphorus and titanium reserves gathers pace in Norway. Their commitment to respecting the environment and the local communities is setting a fantastic precedent for what’s to come from Norge Mining in the future. I also arranged to be accepted as an “Associate Partner” on their ERMA Platform, a body of the European Commission:https://erma.eu/network/.
Q. What are your next important steps?
A. Norge Mining is hoping to obtain an ISO 14001 Environmental Management certificate soon. This international standard will help us keep our environmental impact down as we grow the business and it’ll certainly act as a framework for sustainable mining in a healthy environment.