The Urgency to Decarbonise is Intensifying for Mines
With stakeholder pressure to decarbonise intensifying, there is a new urgency for global mining operators to outline the concrete steps they are taking towards low-carbon energy and mobility for their operations. Major mines including BHP, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Vale have set ambitious carbon reduction targets and are now in the process of outlining how they will achieve their goals. Mid-tier mines are also feeling increased pressure to reduce carbon emissions with shareholders and customers increasingly focused on climate strategy. Defining the pathways to zero-emissions mining is a complex and challenging process.
Speaking at the Energy and Mines Australia Virtual Summit in August, Rio Tinto’s Senior Manager, Energy and Climate Change, Michael Scotton, explained: “Stakeholders want to go beyond long-term goals and understand how we’re implementing our strategy, what are the concrete actions taken to deliver those targets. Customers are also looking to understand the embedded emissions in our products and want to decarbonise their supply chains to provide low-carbon products themselves.” Rio Tinto has committed to cut its absolute emissions by 15 per cent and its carbon intensity by 30 per cent by 2030 — an expected reduction of 4.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
On-site power generation is responsible for a large portion of mining’s carbon footprint and renewable energy offers a platform to increase resilience in an increasingly carbon-constrained world. Renewables provide both a solution for decreasing emissions from energy and a clean energy resource for powering fleet decarbonization through electrification and/or hydrogen. As such, an increasing number of mining companies are committing to developing renewable energy at their mines with project sizes rising from 10 to 15 per cent of power needs to 50 per cent and above.
Among the options mines are looking at for power generation, wind has become very attractive: according to juwi’s Head of Global Business Initiatives, Amiram Roth-Deblon, the addition of wind generation can double the carbon savings from a hybrid power plant on a mine — and double or even triple cash operating cost reductions. Gold Fields’ Agnew mine in Western Australia recently became the first mine to deploy large-scale wind adding 18 MW to its solar hybrid power plant which was delivered by EDL. The power station provides the mine with more than 50 per cent renewable energy over the long term, without compromising power quality or reliability.
For Canadian mining operators, energy costs and carbon emissions intensity are top strategic concerns. To drive down their emissions profile, miners are currently exploring utility-scale renewables for grid-tied sites and high-penetration renewable hybrids for remote operations. For diesel-reliant mines, the urgency to decarbonise has intensified with carbon pricing. Currently, several remote mines are assessing hybrid energy options including wind, solar and storage to manage energy costs and drive down carbon exposure.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for mining decarbonization is material movement. Up to a half of a company’s emissions can come from diesel, primarily used in fleets. Fleet decarbonization is also linked to greening mining’s energy supply as hydrogen and electrification require clean energy sources. Mining companies with targets for lowering their operating costs and reducing carbon emissions are currently testing and investing in new technologies and solutions to decarbonizing heavy-haulage vehicles and equipment.
Anglo American’s Head of Technology Development, Mining & Sustainability, Julian Soles, recently presented on the mining company’s hydrogen-powered mining truck at Energy and Mines’ Virtual Summit on Hydrogen and Mines in early October. Anglo is working with ENGIE to develop the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck. The truck will be tested and validated at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine in South Africa, after which the trucks are expected to be deployed at other Anglo American operations.
Decarbonising mine power and mobility is the core focus of the 8th annual Energy and Mines Virtual World Congress taking place December 8-9. 2020’s virtual Congress will include six content pods focused on key topics on decarbonizing mining, including a Canadian-focused session exploring carbon reduction options for Canadian mines. BHP, Eramet, Newmont, Kinross Gold, Codelco, Teck Chile, Impala Platinum, African Gold Group, Global Atomic Corporation, Fresnillo and Lake Shore Gold are among the mining speakers confirmed to participate. This online event will provide a timely and necessary platform to showcase the mines leading the transition to low-carbon mining and outline potential strategies for remote and grid-tied operators. Mining operators are eligible for complimentary passes to this virtual event. Click here for more details.
About the Author
My role at Energy and Mines is producing content for our global events and directing our sponsorship sales. We are passionate about decarbonising mining and building the necessary connections to make this happen. I’ve been producing B2B events on renewable energy and low-carbon initiatives for the last 13 years and was previously a business journalist and editor