The Mining Industry Is Going Green With Some Industry Titans Targeting Net-Zero Emissions By 2050
The cry for healthier environmental practices has been heard across the world, and many industries are heeding to that call, and rightfully so, considering that industries have a huge carbon footprint. The automotive industry is currently leading the charge in adopting the change as electric vehicle manufacturers highlight their commitment to the shift. However, the most influential change in the net-zero emissions mission should come from the mining industry, which facilitates the existence of many other industries.
Why the mining industry’s commitment to net-zero emissions is important
Mining processes today require heavy machinery, which often run on fossil fuels. This is the case, especially for metals and other components that are important in large-scale technological applications. For example, nickel and cobalt, as well as other metals used to make electric cars, are mined using fossil fuel-powered heavy equipment. Even though the materials are used to make EVs, the process of sourcing those materials has a significant carbon footprint.
The same case applies to consumer products such as phones and household electrical equipment. This scenario cuts across all industrial facets, which means that having a positive environmental impact against global warming requires working out the problem from the mines.
Top global mining companies are on board with the race to zero emissions campaign
The UN is currently championing the race to zero campaign through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty. The good news is that mining companies align themselves with this mission to reduce carbon emissions and foster a healthier world for future generations. BHP Group, one of the largest mining companies in the world in terms of market cap, is among the companies that have jumped on board the carbon neutral commitment.
Mackenzie, however, noted that one of the main challenges to this undertaking will be finding alternative energy at an affordable and reliable price point that will facilitate lower emissions. Here is a list of some of the other companies that have submitted their commitment to the carbon-neutral agenda.
- Rio Tinto- targets net-zero emissions by 2050
- Newmont Corp- plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
- Vale SA- Targets a 15 percent drop in Scope 3 emissions by 2035 and net-zero by 2050.
- Glencore PLC- targets a 40 percent drop in greenhouse emissions by 2035 and net zero by 2050.
- Anglo American PLC targets a 40 percent reduction in GHGs by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2040.
- Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.- plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.
- Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. – It targets a 30 percent drop in GHGs by 2030 and net-zero by 2040.
- Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. – It has already achieved carbon neutral status.
Many other mining companies have a carbon neutral target between 2040 and 2050, and this is great news because it means industries are acknowledging the push for change. However, there is a lot of concern as to whether and how these companies will achieve these ambitious goals.
How mining industries plan to achieve carbon-neutral status
Setting such ambitious targets is one thing but walking the talk is another. If the mining industry’s goal is to continue mining activities, then alternative energy sources to keep their operations active. It might mean doing things in entirely new ways. While the automotive industry predominantly shifts in favor of electric vehicles, this is not a feasible approach.
Redesigning mining equipment
Mining companies will likely have to redesign their mining model to include new equipment that renewable energy sources can power. For example, mining companies can leverage onsite generated electricity to power conveyor belts and other equipment to get the mines’ raw materials. The onsite power sources could be powered by solar, wind, or mini nuclear reactors. Redesigned mining equipment operated via alternative green energy would be a great way to overcome the challenges associated with oil transition.
Equipment redesign may include laying rail tracks for electricity-powered trains that can carry the raw materials from the mines to the processing facility. Similar methods could be used to carry raw materials from processing facilities to ports and markets.
Exploring fuel cell technology
Although battery powered trucks might be limited in range and carrying capacity, companies like Tesla are still exploring this option, especially for last-mile delivery. Longer trips might necessitate the adoption of technologies such as fuel cell technologies which can provide enough power to push heavy trucks over longer distances.
What to expect in the next few years
A transition to greener energy will not take place overnight. It will likely be a gradual process in which industries will slowly ease off fossil fuels. The mining industry will likely start switching to hybrid technologies such as trucks powered by diesel and hydrogen fuel cell technology. There might even be a shift to synthetic fuels that facilitate a drastically lower carbon footprint. More has to be done in the mining industry to attain carbon-neutral status.
It is also likely that some companies will start leveraging technologies to clean their emissions, such as devices that capture carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Green electricity and hydrogen fuel cell technology are currently the most promising long-term approaches to the energy problem. However, this does not mean that they will be the only alternatives. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the need for reliable industrial energy alternatives could fuel the development of entirely new green energy sources in the next few decades.
The other alternative is that the current renewable energies may experience drastic improvements that make them more appealing and favorable for industrial use. Solid state batteries are a great example of a technology that could help battery technology fully secure its win as the technology to usher in the next energy revolution stage.