I recently participated in a panel discussion on ‘mining and the energy transition’ and, shortly beforehand, was having a brief conversation with the panel’s host, a well-known and well-reputed commodity analyst, who commented, “we never think of gold in relation to climate and energy”. I might have taken some offence at this, given that the subject has been a primary focus of my working life for some years now, but of course I didn’t – indeed, I wasn’t at all surprised.
But it certainly reminded me, again, that there is plenty of work to do to ensure that the World Gold Council’s programme of research and engagement on gold and gold mining’s relationship to climate change is more widely known and understood. And part of that work involves acknowledging the obstacles to be addressed.
Gold means very many different things to different people – whether it be as an item of iconic beauty, a safe and reliable investment, a symbol of success and achievement, or an industrial material with remarkable physical qualities. Indeed, its virtues as an asset are, to a large extent, dependent on this multiplicity of uses, and the wide range of motivations for purchasing gold, that make it such a potent diversifier. Driven by so many different factors, it is therefore less correlated with mainstream assets and market cycles. But this diversity, and the cultural and emotional values people often attach to gold, alongside its rich but often difficult and turbulent history, also mean that adopting a clear-sighted, data-led view of gold does not always come naturally, even to many of those close to the industry. Assumptions and legacy perceptions can be difficult to overcome, but they need to be considered if we are to change the lens through which gold is viewed.
When it comes to climate issues and prospects, the view is clear, although often alarming too; the science is now incontrovertible and the need for mitigating action is desperately urgent if disastrous climate impacts are to be avoided. The world must move away from activities and choices that generate high levels of green-house gases (GHGs) and, first and foremost, it must wean itself off fossil fuels.