Mining companies posted stellar financial results for 2021, with revenues rising by 32% and net profits soaring by 127% on the back of high commodity prices and prudent cost management. But it’s unclear how long this record run will continue.

According to PwC’s 19th annual review of the Top 40 mining companies — Mine 2022 — which examines global trends in the mining industry, future success will depend on whether or not the Top 40 can take a leading role in the world’s clean energy transition and continue to generate significant stakeholder value.

To do that, miners must utilise their strong current financial position to meet challenges including development timelines, price volatility, geopolitical risks, stakeholder expectations, economies of scale and economic resource scarcity.

This year’s report suggests that the rewards for those miners that emerge as leaders in the clean energy transition could be immense. According to recent data, the need for critical minerals is expected to grow over the next three decades, with some estimates suggesting that the annual demand from clean energy technologies will reach over $400-billion by 2050.

Andries Rossouw, PwC Africa’s Africa energy, utilities and resources leader, says: “Energy transition presents various opportunities to the mining sector and the fundamental role that the sector plays in underpinning the global transition to clean energy is clear. However, if the mining industry does not rapidly scale up its discovery and delivery of critical minerals, the prospects of energy transition at scale will be jeopardised.”

So what should the world’s biggest miners do next? The report offers four key takeaways. Miners should:

* Consider carefully their position in the race to net zero and exposure to critical minerals.

* Take advantage of their financial strength.

* Revisit their deals strategy.

* Double down on ESG.

Paul Bendall, PwC global leader, mining & metals, says: “Mining companies, particularly the Top 40 referred to in this report, must continue to develop strategies to enhance trust because it’s a precious commodity wherein trust is seen as a precious commodity. Only by developing and maintaining trust with a broad range of stakeholders will miners’ social licence to operate be assured. The successful development and execution of environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies will go a long way to securing that trust.”