Rapid developments in technological innovation, including automation, digitization, and facial recognition, have significantly impacted the mining industry in recent years. Innovative technical advancements are now increasingly focused on the progression of sustainable operational practices, particularly in the context of commitments to net zero transition.
Laura Rich is the Chief Sustainability Officer and General Counsel of TSX-listed Marimaca Copper Corp, owner of the Marimaca Copper Project in Antofagasta Chile.
The Marimaca Copper Project is recognized as one of the most important copper discoveries globally in recent years. It represents a new type of copper deposit in Chile that challenges accepted exploration wisdom and may open up new frontiers for discoveries elsewhere in the country.
Given the lack of new copper discoveries in Chile, the Marimaca Copper Project is a high-profile development project. It has access to first-class existing infrastructure, utilities and skilled industry workforce due to its proximity to Antofagasta and Mejillones. This prime location enables the future development of the project to be executed at a relatively low capital investment and execution risk, resulting in the potential for high-margin returns.
In October 2022, the company announced a significant upgrade in the scale of the copper resource at Marimaca, and it is now focused on progressing technical and permitting milestones to bring the project through to development. Sustainable development practices are at the very heart of its operating model, reflecting the company’s commitment to employing environmental, social, and governance stewardship throughout the business.
An Industry Expert Introducing Unique Perspectives
Laura started her career as a corporate lawyer in an international firm, which presented opportunities to live and work in different places in Asia and Europe and to complete different secondments, including pro bono work in Africa at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. This experience encouraged her to focus on emerging market opportunities and Africa in particular. She was particularly drawn to the mining industry, given the number of interesting and complex projects it has and, of course, the sector’s importance for development.
Laura spent a number of years working as part of a management team of an international mining group with operations in East Africa and other projects across the continent. The complexity and nature of the challenges faced by the group expanded day to day responsibilities significantly. Consequently, Laura was asked to bring her keen strategic and geopolitical insights to assess a wide variety of matters far removed from traditional legal roles, particularly those involving environmental, social, and governance considerations.
As a result, her career and role became more wide-ranging and focused on general strategic advice. At Marimaca Copper, Laura’s role is equally broad and diverse. It includes day-to-day oversight of sustainability and most non-technical risks.
In Laura’s opinion, “sustainability” captures a wide range of strategic areas, from infrastructure to governance, and risk management to corporate affairs. Whilst no two days are the same, her role certainly has a forward-looking strategic focus. She works with a great team of like-minded people and the Marimaca Copper Project itself has fantastic potential.
Dedication And Determination to Achieve Objectives
Laura recalls certain projects she has worked on as incredibly challenging, requiring strategic acumen, and real strength and determination to navigate. At times, she could even say situations have been personally intimidating. In these tough situations, Laura has seen women come to the fore and show real grit, dedication, and determination to achieve objectives and truly lead by example and, to that end, lead courageously.
Laura believes that the example of courageous leadership has taught her the most and set the qualities that she admires. Laura reflects back to a particular individual who she automatically thinks of as a courageous leader, someone who she worked with for years in East Africa and who is incredibly impressive. When Laura thinks of leadership qualities she always thinks of her example, her focus, her abilities, and her courage.
Gracefully Meeting Industry Challenges
Laura can be particularly passionate and driven. In the early stage of her journey, Laura believes that this was sometimes misconstrued as “emotion” and viewed negatively – one must have read the posts that compare certain female attributes to the male equivalent! This is not something that she necessarily dwells on, but it is something to reflect on when progressing career goals.
Starting out, individuals are often too eager to provide immediate responses to situations or questions; to look knowledgeable, keen, or assertive, sometimes this can be to the detriment of appearing – or indeed of being – considered. Having witnessed a variety of executives, directors, and boards over the years, Laura has learned the importance of full-some debate and consideration. This highlights the importance of taking the time needed to weigh things up properly, especially when faced with challenging or difficult issues.
Everything Starts with Selfcare and Balance
Compassion, foresight, courage, consideration, intuition, integrity, self-awareness, strength, and perseverance are key qualities for a balanced leader. Laura also thinks it’s important to ensure that every leader takes care of their health. Burnout has been a common issue for years and in Laura’s opinion self-care and balance are now getting the prominence they should.
Developing Innovative Solutions in Mining
The mining industry will play a critical role in many ways, not least due to its significance in sourcing critical raw materials for energy transition. It also presents endless opportunities to progress innovatively in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all. Developing the mining industry in a sustainable manner is not without its challenges; however, there are enough people who are dedicated to achieving this, so Laura believes it will become a common reality. At Marimaca, the company is committed to building a sustainable copper mine. To this end, the team has already started to achieve some innovative milestones, most significantly in the execution of an arrangement recently that will provide future operations with a source of long-term recycled seawater supply. Globally, mining accounts for significant freshwater use and its use in arid regions, such as where the Marimaca Copper Project is located, is an enormous social challenge. Securing recycled seawater for use in the way that the company has significantly de-risks its project with material long-term and wide-ranging benefits. The company is also focused on sourcing green energy for its future operations, a component of which has already been secured as part of water supply arrangements.
Flexibility Creates Opportunities
“Seize as many opportunities as are available to you and be flexible,” advises Laura. Laura thinks Covid alone has taught everyone something about curveballs and the need to be able to consider things differently than one may have originally thought. One may think that he/she has chosen a specific path and that such a path requires certain experiences and promotions, but this can change along the way. If a person remains flexible then it becomes easy to work in an industry or in a country that one would not necessarily have thought of. However, while maintaining flexibility has great benefits, leaders should stay true to their beliefs. They have to be fair in their expectations for themselves and of others.
Quote: “The mining industry is indispensable, particularly given its importance to the transition to a net zero economy. Developing the mining industry sustainably is not without its challenges; however, there is a big enough commitment to achieve this, for sustainable mining to become a common reality.”
– Laura Rich, Chief Sustainability Officer and General Counsel, Marimaca Copper Corp
Management: Laura Rich, Chief Sustainability Officer and General Counsel, Marimaca Copper Corp