Plenty of promises have been made by governments across the globe during this year’s COP26. When looking forward to the next year in the mining industry, I’m interested to explore how it will be possible to decarbonise an industry typically criticised for its high emissions.
Despite this, the mining industry has recently started setting goals for reduced emissions, with targets across key companies ranging from 0-30% by 2030. Although these are far lower than those ‘promised’ in the Paris Agreement, mines will arguably be one of the slowest industrial industries to overhaul systems to optimise emissions outputs, as processes still require antiquated strategies. By focussing on operational efficiency, electrification and switching to renewable energy use where possible, mines can actually fully decarbonise, with the exception of fugitive methane.
The industry generates an average between 1.9-5.1 gigatons of CO2 (CO2e) GHG emissions per year, with a necessary reduction of at least 85% to meet climate goals. More mining companies are beginning to realise that to remain economically viable then environmental and social responsibility is crucial. The sustainable mining discussion is not only focused on the reputational or legal aspects of a company, but on employing innovative design too. Alongside of this ongoing industry discussion, I’ve had my eye on a few companies in the mining equipment space adapting technologies to focus on electric power and energy efficiency.
Part of the ‘Clean Earth Technologies’ Group, Clean Mining is an Australian based gold mining company looking to revolutionise the industry through the use of safer, more environmentally-responsible technologies.
The process of ‘Clean Mining’ means more than eliminating traditional toxic mining processes involving cyanide and mercury. The concept of ‘clean’ ensures the embrace of practices, enterprises and operators that are responsible, transparent, honest, and reliable.
In order to effectively manage a safer, cleaner mining service, Clean Mining follows six key steps. Beginning with a feasibility study, which considers the site specifics, such as power and water availability, grade and ore types and tonnage estimations. This is followed by laboratory testing to determine the right equipment for optimal gold recovery, Clean Mining conducts laboratory testing of your supplied ore. After considering site and ore qualities, and budget, Clean Mining recommends the equipment required to support your gold mining operations. Clean Mining offers a turn-key approach to plant assembly; manufacturing, installing, commissioning and testing plant onsite to ensure efficiency. Plant and equipment training is then conducted with Clean Mining staff or a fully trained contractor in the local area.
Clean Mining also supplies the reagent, and all other chemicals used in the gold recovery process, to your site. The reagent is a premium chemical formulation, tailored to meet your site and ore type to ensure you achieve optimal gold recovery outcomes, and will be supplied by Clean Mining for mines lifetime. Developed for more than a decade by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, this solution replaces toxic cyanide and mercury with a non-toxic gold recovery agent, benefiting both human and environmental health.
Through this process, Clean Mining is working to transform gold production worldwide, through its new mineral processing technology that eliminates cyanide and mercury. The use of this revolutionary gold recovery agent offers genuinely transformative change for the industry, setting a new standard.
Founded in 1871 in Glasgow, The Weir Group (Weir) continues to provide global mining solutions in the form of high-quality, smarter, more efficient, and sustainable mining equipment and technologies.
By focusing on what makes it distinctive; the challenge of solving mining’s key sustainability and productivity issues, Weir’s innovative engineering provides solutions to critical obstacles within the mining supply chain. It is the only provider of market-leading solutions from pit to processing, with its differentiated technology used from extraction to concentration and tailings management.
Thanks to continued growth in population and urbanisation, demand for Weir’s products and services continues to increase. Stemming from the drive to decarbonise and underpinned by positive long-term structural growth trends.
Demand is expected to grow for minerals essential for electricity transmission and storage, for electric vehicles, and for renewable energy plants. Metals such as copper, steel, lithium, and nickel are all vital to this transition to a clean energy economy. Meanwhile, demand for raw materials such as iron ore, to support economic growth and infrastructure investment, also expects to see growth.
As the mining industry seeks to meet this demand, an industry-wide technology transformation is crucial to operate more sustainably. Weir’s technologies help make the mining processes smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable, through providing equipment with up to 40% less electricity usage than current providers – positioning them as an industry leader as focus turns to low emissions objectives.
FLSmidth is another company providing innovative engineering, equipment and service solutions to the global mining industries. Since 1882, FLSmidth has been a pioneer in increasing performance whilst reducing costs and environmental impact across the mining and cement industries.
Combined, cement and minerals production accounts for approximately 10% of all CO2 emissions. As part of its sustainability ambition, MissionZero, customers in mining and cement can strive confidently towards a goal of zero emissions by 2030. Technologies include the likes of HOTDISC, a system that allows cement manufacturers to substitute more than 80% of their fossil fuels with waste fuels, with the possibility to increase this to 100%. It has also discovered solutions, such as LowNOx, which allow NOx emissions to be reduced by up to 60% and counting. Products such as ECOtails have made it possible to recycle up to 90% of water in mining. In addition to this, MissionZero commits to the possibility to provide a zero-emissions cement plant and mine by 2030, with 100% fuel substitutions and zero waste.
The road to a greener future is paved with cement and minerals.
Growing populations need cement for housing and infrastructure, and the move to sustainable energy and electric vehicles requires the mining of excessive minerals. Alongside this consumption of electricity and electronic goods increases year on year across the globe. Through building powerful and influential partnerships, innovating products and discovering solutions, FLSmidth plans to use its products to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, creating a sustainable world for future generations.
Sandvik is a high-tech global engineering Group with a strong commitment to enhancing customer productivity, profitability, and sustainability. Its operations are based on unique expertise in materials technology, extensive knowledge about industrial processes and close customer cooperation. This combination, coupled with continuous investments in research and development (R&D), has enabled it to achieve world-leading positions in a range of tools and tooling systems for industrial and mining practices.
This year, Sandvik reported a strong momentum for electric mining equipment, forecasting it to account for more than half of its underground mining equipment sales by 2030. After showing its potential in a range of customer testing, the service has become an important part of a very large contract discussion during the next few years. Henrik Ager, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said:
I think electrification is going to be one of the biggest technology shifts that we have seen in the mining industry in a very long time.
Offering better productivity, an emission-free working environment, less noise and vibration and significant cost-saving potential in other areas like ventilation, electric equipment is quickly becoming favoured. Alongside this, the total cost of ownership for electric equipment is decreasing, whilst diesel costs continue to increase as a means of deterring usage. As a result, the demand for electric underground mining equipment sees significant growth, and Sandvik expects to have an electric offering covering all underground applications by 2022.
As a result of the increased industry focus on the reduction of GHG emissions, Liebherr recently announced the acceleration of its low carbon solutions project, the Zero Emission Program. The company has confirmed its partnership with ABB on trolley assist infrastructure, and ENGIE, to help integrate renewable energy solutions into processes such as loading, hauling and dozing.
Liebherr Mining’s emissions reduction strategy will mainly focus on the operational phase of its machinery, as studies show that more than 90% of the total GHG emissions generated from mining equipment are emitted at this stage.
The Liebherr Group has in-house capabilities across electrification, batteries, internal combustion engines, injection systems and alternative renewable fuels. The Zero Emission Program has targets to provide low carbon alternatives for the full range of off-highway trucks and excavators it provides in 2022, as well as a roadmap towards providing solutions that use zero fossil fuels by 2030.
Modularisation, and an energy-type agnostic approach to drivetrains, are key elements in Liebherr’s mining strategy. These functionalities ease the transition to low and no emissions output for customers by offering the possibility to retrofit modules. By doing so, the Zero Emission Program should be able to offer long-term sustainable products and services, with different options available based on environmental sustainability, safety, cost, flexibility, and maintainability. Alongside this, 2022 plans to see the company finalise its electric digging and hauling range, embarking on the first step towards electrification of its full suite of mining solutions.
With eight years left for the mining industry to meet the required low emissions goals of the Paris Agreement, companies such as these are crucial to ensuring this is a realistic and achievable possibility. It’s clear that the electrification of equipment can contribute to a large reduction of GHG emissions in relation to mining practices, and as the wider global focus hones in on these objectives, the deployment of these innovative and strategic emissions reduction products will become a need, rather than a want, for companies across the industry.
Are you interested in discussing the future of the mining industry with me in some more detail? Drop me a message at email@example.com.
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