A Zero-Carbon Mine?
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A Zero-carbon Mine?
The world's mines are extracting natural resources that are required to produce energy and materials. Supply chains of the world's largest industries are traced back to mines producing rare-earth minerals, metals, and other industrial minerals.
Mines are key suppliers to energy producers:
- EV batteries require lithium, nickel, and cobalt
- Oil & gas needs silica sand during the hydraulic fracturing process to produce shale oil and gas
- Solar panels increase demand for aluminum, copper, indium, silica, and several other minerals
- Wind turbine blades require steel, resin, iron, copper, and other minerals
The mining industry contributes 2 to 3 percent of global CO2 emissions and has a large role to play in emissions reduction. Within the industry, much of the focus to date has been on portfolio shifts (that is, divestment of coal assets); however, the industry is facing increasing pressure from regulators, investors, and customers to decarbonize operations.
Source: McKinsey & Co
The connection between energy, electrification, and climate technology with mining supply is clear. Global mines are key to lowering global emissions as well as reducing emissions in related industries.
Global Mapped Mining Area
To date, understanding the scope of globally mining environmental impacts and emissions is very difficult, especially considering Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. A group of research scientists published a paper and data set in 2020 that produced 21,000 mine locations and extents from satellite images.
The area used for mineral extraction is a key indicator for understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts caused by the extractive sector. To date, worldwide data products on mineral extraction do not report the area used by mining activities.
Source: Scientific Data
Source: A global-scale data set of mining areas, Scientific Data
The result is a global-scale data set consisting of 21,060 polygons that add up to 57,277 km2. The polygons cover all mining above-ground features that could be identified from the satellite images, including open cuts, tailings dams, waste rock dumps, water ponds, and processing infrastructure.
Source: Scientific Data
The concentration in Chile is due to copper mining while the concentration in Australia and Indonesia is due to coal mining.
Reducing Emissions in Mining
Miners are turning to new technology and methods to reduce emissions and decarbonize operations. According to an example iron ore open pit mine, nearly 55% of total emissions comes from diesel consumption. Hauling trucks, crushing equipment, bulldozers, and excavator equipment are the top sources of emissions.
Paths to a Zero-Carbon Mine
BHP, the world's largest miner, intends to cut emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Electrification will play a vital role to BHP's success.
Anglo American, a South African miner, is piloting a hydrogen powered mining haul truck. The truck is a hybrid with a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery pack providing the power.
ABB is bringing enabling technology to electrify mining equipment from mine to market. Industrial batteries, microgrids, heavy-duty electric motors, EV fast charging stations, and other industrial solutions are offered to help miners reach an all-electric mine of the future.
Similarly, Caterpillar is deploying industrial batteries to power mines in harsh environments where electricity from a grid is not possible.
Numerous other miners and companies are bringing solutions to find paths to reduce emissions, electrify equipment, and deploy renewable power. Mining plays a vital role to industrial decarbonization and is a key market to watch as hydrogen and battery technology is deployed across the globe.
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