In 2020, the world faced a global pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetimes. For the metals and minerals sector, it was an extraordinary year. Gold and silver prices surged in response to the escalating crisis, while at the same time, mining operations across the resources sector were curtailed. However, the importance of mining to national economies has become better appreciated, just as the significance of metals to humanity has become better recognised. Because the fact is that metals and minerals are fundamental to vital technology, including healthcare.
We are still counting the human and economic cost of this pandemic, which has created fundamental change across society. To fight COVID-19, we have had to adapt our working practices, limit human contact and restrict the way we live our lives. For all that, we have been brought together in a remarkable way. Moreover, there has been a re-evaluation of what really matters, now and in the future. Greater responsibility must be taken, when nothing can be taken for granted.
A growing trend before the pandemic, deemed to continue expanding in a post-pandemic world, is the focus on strong company ESG profiles. A mining company's valuation of assets increasingly extends beyond geological deposits and mineral grades to relationships with governments, civil society and communities. What was once a concern limited to environmental groups has become a significant driver of value and of public opinion. What is more, the investment community now expects greater transparency on the true environmental, economic and social impacts of the mining industry.
A transition toward renewable energy is all very well, but the question is, 'at what cost to mining communities'? What is, for example, the human cost of extracting cobalt from governance-challenged nations so that environmentally-minded drivers can trade in their old cars for electric vehicles? The sector cannot lose sight of how essential an integrated approach to community engagement and development really is. Companies not attune to this reality risk losing the trust of important allies and potential access to capital, progressively earmarked for ESG-sound projects. The mining industry's contribution to humanity has arguably never been more important, nor more necessary that is why industrial practices and social programmes matter so much.
Metals for Humanity in 2021 will look to increase its social and environmental impact. We will help alleviate - if only in a modest way - some of the immense strain on health infrastructure. Amongst our projects this year, we will continue with our Pure Silver Initiative, providing access to drinkable water through silver-based technologies, and pilot Clean Hands Against Covid, a programme designed to reduce infection rates in some of the most densely populated and vulnerable communities in Mexico City. And in a further extension to our Pure Silver Initiative, in discussions with potential downstream partners, we are exploring a way to up-cycle industrially-used silver into social enterprises, closing the circle between extraction, end use, and back again.
We look forward to a brighter 2021, working with local communities and our partners, new and old, to build upon all that which has changed for the better.