2020 Annual Review

Pro Bono

Rehabilitation of a waste dump concludes in Bad Schlema, Germany. © Jan Woitas/Getty Images
Rehabilitation of a waste dump concludes in Bad Schlema, Germany. © Jan Woitas/Getty Images

Pro Bono

Group efforts support sustainable development

White & Case helped UN and World Economic Forum–sponsored Pro Bono clients make progress toward industry-wide objectives in the mining & metals and energy sectors.

Sustainable development is a high priority for most companies. Yet no one business, organization or government can singlehandedly tackle the environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges we face. So partnerships among a variety of stakeholders have become key to driving change.    

Drawing on the experience of the lawyers in our Business & Human Rights Group as well as other Firm practices, White & Case helped Pro Bono clients Global Tailings Review and Global Battery Alliance to advance collaborative sustainability initiatives in the mining & metals and energy sectors, respectively.     

Better management of mining waste

Mining tailings, the waste left after a target mineral is extracted from the surrounding rock, became an increasing concern following the 2019 collapse of a tailings dam in Brumadinho, Brazil. In the wake of that disaster, the United Nations (UN) Environment Program, UN-supported investor network Principles for Responsible Investment and the International Council on Mining and Metals convened the Global Tailings Review (GTR) to implement requirements for the safer management of tailings storage facilities. 

Led by partners Rebecca Campbell and Oliver Wright, along with counsel Tallat Hussain, the White & Case team advised GTR on the first-ever Standard on Tailings Management (Standard), which was published in August 2020. In connection with this effort, White & Case conducted a detailed comparative analysis of tailings-related legislation in major mining jurisdictions benchmarked against the Standard. 

“Our analysis highlights the need for a consistent approach to tailings facility management, operations and safety,” said Tallat Hussain. “The gap between the most- and least-aligned jurisdictions illustrates the need for more emphasis on catastrophic failure, accountability and engaged communities.”

The Standard applies to both existing and new tailings facilities and covers the tailings facility life cycle—from site selection, design and construction to management to closure. Working toward a goal of zero harm, the Standard will ultimately be supported by implementation protocols that will offer detailed guidance. 

A sustainable battery revolution

The global battery market is projected to reach US$100 billion by 2025, primarily driven by the proliferation of electric vehicles, according to research firm Market Study Report. As battery technology evolves, it is critical to address the significant ESG challenges throughout the battery supply chain. These challenges include the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine the cobalt that powers lithium batteries and, at the end of the process, the environmental impact of dead batteries.   

To help address the wide range of supply chain issues, the World Economic Forum (Forum), working closely with a number of industry stakeholders, established the Global Battery Alliance (GBA) in 2017. The GBA is a partnership of about 70 members that includes companies across the battery value chain, public entities, NGOs and knowledge partners such as White & Case.   

“It’s a real joint initiative that brings together entities that wouldn’t traditionally work together,” said partner John Tivey in Melbourne who, along with partners Jacquelyn MacLennan in Brussels and London and Clare Connellan in London, leads the project. “This alliance has enabled partnerships across the supply chain to address challenges holistically.” 

White & Case, which worked with the Forum to set up the GBA’s constitution and governance structure, has advised the GBA on a wide range of legal issues over the years. In 2020, we created tailored antitrust guidelines that enable GBA members, many of which are competitors, to work together to develop common solutions without triggering antitrust issues. We also provided support as the GBA advanced in its planned transition from a Forum initiative to a standalone entity, a turning point for the organization.