Extractive resources are indisputably a necessary component of international sustainable development. Despite current advancements in the circular economy, world production needs for raw materials are ever increasing, and still a long way remains for it to become rather independent from mineral resources. At the same time, mining has too many negative stories in news headlines about its trade-offs for the environment and human health, which hinders sustainable growth. This thesis deals with this integral dilemma in three chapters.
In Chapter 1, I have made an extensive effort to understand the socio-political aspects of the mining business, both internationally and specifically in the context of a developing country, and on the issue of the corporate social responsibility the company requires. I then continued with gathering my primary sources of data for answering my first question: What are the primary social variables contributing to mining sustainability issues? I derived theories from Economic Growth in the Political Economy and Institutional Void from Management Science, trying to place my findings in a broader context. I concluded this chapter with underlying sociopolitical factors interfering with sustainable mining practices. This has led to the shaping of the second chapter of my thesis.
Chapter 2 builds on the given that throughout the model of Economic Growth, technological change can happen within a shorter timeline and that new technologies lead to more efficiency in the Process Innovation. The mining industry is no exception. Yet, my quick review at the time revealed that this industry is lagging incumbent mainstream businesses in technological adoption. I therefore made my aim here to discuss conditions for transitions towards a more technologically innovative mining business. I surveyed mining firms internationally and noted the critical criteria for responsible practices. I then made what had been to my knowledge and ability, an exhaustive grouping of innovative technologies for the different sectors of mining firms. These tools granted me the ability to perform different multivariate analyses and decide on the best method for benchmarking different technology groups based on these criteria.
In the later part of my thesis (Chapter 3), having these findings in hand and all experiences and observations in place with my assumptions, I decided to take one step back to ask whether the criteria I have for measuring mining sustainability are the correct measures by looking through the question using emerging data science tools. Are the sustainability scopes commonly discussed in the mining community the most crucial sustainability problems of this sector? Having the sustainability reports of all major international mining firms in hand, I evaluated around 3500 documents containing 8 million words discussing current sustainability matters pertaining to mining firms. Through implementing appropriate algorithms of Topic Modeling, I introduced five new main scopes for mining sustainability used to examine the discourse and groupings through this framework to observe any possible differences among the conventional and the generated lists. The results of my thesis are my two conceptual frameworks, technological benchmarking assessment tools, and a data-driven sustainability domains list, as well as the innovation policy recommendations for the mining community.EPFL