South32’s AGM 2023: A Year of Triumphs and Trials in the Mining World

  • South32's 2023 AGM reflects a year of progress, financial strength, and commitment to safety and sustainability.
  • Safety remains a top priority, and the company aims to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries, emphasizing the value of every employee's safety.
  • South32's climate change efforts, support for Indigenous communities, and focus on biodiversity showcase its dedication to responsible mining practices.

The 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of South32 Limited provided a platform for reflection and strategic planning. In a year marked by achievements and challenges, South32’s Chair, Karen Wood, and CEO, Graham Kerr, addressed shareholders, highlighting the company’s performance, safety, sustainability efforts, and future prospects.

A Year of Progress and Optimism

Karen Wood, South32’s Chair, expressed her gratitude to the shareholders for their participation in the AGM, both in person and online. She acknowledged the progress made in the past financial year, yet emphasized the need for further improvement in safety.

A Focus on Safety

Safety remained a critical concern for South32. The loss of two colleagues in a tragic incident in Mozal Aluminium underscored the importance of improving safety performance. Wood reiterated the company’s commitment to shifting its safety culture and eliminating fatalities and serious injuries. She emphasized that every individual’s safety is paramount, and South32 remains dedicated to ensuring that all employees return home safe and well every day.

Strong Financial Performance

Graham Kerr, South32’s CEO, provided insights into the company’s financial and operational results. Despite volatile economic conditions and inflationary pressures, South32 reported strong production growth, with record-breaking performances at three of its operations. The company achieved one of its largest underlying profit results to date, with underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $2.5 billion. Additionally, South32 returned $1.2 billion to shareholders in the past year, demonstrating a disciplined approach to capital management.

People and Inclusion

Both Wood and Kerr stressed the significance of their people in achieving success. South32 is committed to shaping a safe, values-based, and high-performance organizational culture that respects its employees. The company has made significant progress in gender diversity, with women representing 50% of the Lead Team. The Board also prioritizes diversity, with a broad range of skills and experience among its Directors. South32 welcomed new independent Non-Executive Directors, enhancing its capabilities in major projects, operations, and sustainability.

A Bright Future

South32’s optimism for the future is grounded in its eight-year transformation journey. The company has become a global, diversified producer of critical commodities for a low-carbon world. Projects like Hermosa in Arizona, which can supply federally designated critical minerals for clean energy, highlight South32’s commitment to sustainability. Despite a non-cash impairment related to Hermosa’s Taylor Deposit, the project’s potential remains substantial, and South32 continues to invest in its development.

Climate Change Commitment

South32 embraces the goals of the Paris Agreement and aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, covering Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. The company also targets a 50% reduction in operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, based on the FY21 baseline. Shareholders expressed strong support for South32’s Climate Change Action Plan, which focuses on decarbonization initiatives in operations contributing the most to greenhouse gas emissions.

Support for Indigenous Communities

South32’s support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution aligns with its commitment to Indigenous communities. The company consults with Traditional Owners of the lands on which it operates, aiming to improve the well-being of these communities and create better health and education outcomes. South32’s dedication to reconciliation extends to its daily work and Reconciliation Action Plan.

Biodiversity and Land Rehabilitation

Minimizing the impact on ecosystems and achieving no net loss for new projects and expansions are essential principles in South32’s approach to biodiversity. The company actively participates in working groups and initiatives related to biodiversity disclosure. Screening assessments are conducted at various operations to assess the impact on land and biodiversity. South32 continues to work on improving its land rehabilitation efforts.

Tailings Management

South32 aligns its tailings management approach with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. The company actively supports advancements in tailings management through industry engagement. South32’s Board oversees climate change as a strategic risk and governance issue and commits to providing annual updates on its progress.

Supporting a Fair Transition

As South32 explores transitioning away from carbon-intensive energy sources, it remains committed to supporting a fair and just transition for its workforce, local communities, and the broader South African economy. The company aims to create opportunities and invest in local communities. South32 has a social investment program that focuses on education, economic participation, health and well-being, and natural resource resilience.

Conclusion

South32 Limited’s 2023 AGM highlighted a year marked by progress, safety challenges, and a strong commitment to sustainability. The company’s focus on safety, inclusivity, and climate change mitigation positions it well for future growth and continued success.

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