Tag Archives: bauxite

TAKRAF X-TREME sizers go the distance at Guinea bauxite mine

Three TAKRAF X-TREME class sizers supplied to a large bauxite mining operation in Guinea are, the OEM says, fully delivering on their promise of exceptional reliability and wear behaviour.

Commissioned in late 2018, the sizers had, as of the end of February 2021, crushed more than 27 Mt of bauxite ore and were still operating with their original set of wear parts.

The sizers were supplied as part of an important production expansion project at the mine. This project, awarded in late 2016 to TAKRAF as an EPC contract, encompassed a comprehensive wagon unloading, crushing and conveying system.

The TAKRAF sizers included within the overall system comprised one 3,600 t/h primary TCS-X 14.35 located in the pit beneath the wagon tippler; and two 1,800 t/h secondary TCS-X 08.30 located in the crushing building.

Both the primary and the secondary sizers are from TAKRAF’s X-TREME class sizer range. This range was developed to provide extended reliability and availability through a heavy-duty drivetrain, robust shaft and bearing assemblies, and the use of advanced wear resistant materials.

Ease of maintenance is another advantage of the TAKRAF sizer, with the primary sizer installed on site featuring a bolted tooth system to enable easy and quick replacement when sufficient wear has been experienced, the company says.

Conor Mitchell, TAKRAF Product Manager – Roll Crushers, said: “The combination of high reliability and long lifetime of wear parts means significantly higher machine uptime and that ends up translating into increased productivity for this bauxite operation. These performance levels reinforce that our X-TREME class sizer line provides maximum reliability and availability in difficult conditions, which is something the market has been calling for quite some time.”

Hastings Deering rebuild program pays off for Rio Tinto’s Gove operation

Hastings Deering has been sustain output at Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite open-pit operation in the Northern Territory of Australia by boosting engine power during the rebuild of dozers.

The Cat D11T dozer is purpose built to move more material and ensure maximum availability through its planned life cycle, the Caterpillar dealer says. For Rio Tinto, Dozer 79, had built up over 37,000 hours ripping and pushing bauxite at its open-pit operation.

Rio Tinto knew it wanted to undergo a Cat Certified Rebuild for its dozer but had to come up with an innovate way to do this while minimising equipment down time, Hastings Deering said.

Brendan Coleing, Superintendent, Mining Maintenance, said the Gove operation has focused heavily on building safe and reliable machinery to meet the targeted life of its assets and maintenance schedules.

“With a 24/7 operation, we need to plan and strategically think about our assets, their maintenance and lifecycle,” he said. “By planning large maintenance projects in advance, at Rio Tinto, we’ve been able to compensate for machinery downtime and achieve some great energy efficiencies.”

One of the key projects that helped to allow for the nine-week Cat Certified Rebuild (CCR) was the D11R repower project.

In early 2020, the Hastings Deering team worked with Rio Tinto on an alternative solution for engine replacement in its D11R fleet that reduced costs, fuel use and emissions while extending lifespans. This incorporated replacing the 3508 engines the machines originally came with, with the newer C32 engines.

“Recent success with repowering our D11 fleet with C32 engines has helped our mining operations move more bauxite due to increased power in the machine,” Coleing states. “This in turn allowed us to remove Dozer 79 out of production, and into the workshop to complete a Cat Certified Rebuild.”

Alongside the increase in machine availability, this project presented a budgeted fuel burn reduction of up to 25%.

“Our like-for-like material movements are now done with significantly less fuel which is a great environmental outcome,” Coleing said. “They’re also quieter, making them a little more comfortable for the operator.”

With Cat equipment built to perform over multiple lifetimes, the CCR was the most efficient way to help get the most economic value out of the original asset investment.

A CCR is a full machine rebuild that provides a like-new machine, inclusive of all Cat updates, to help achieve a full machine life supported by the Caterpillar warranty, Hastings Deering says.

Brad Read, Service Manager at Hastings Deering, said the CCR program is an efficient way for customers to improve the planned lifecycle of their machines.

“Given Dozer 79’s upcoming power train, hydraulic and major component change outs, a CCR was a cost-effective way for us to maintain the asset through to the end of its target life,” he said. “Customers opt for a CCR as it provides the ability to rebuild their machine, including all technological advancements, over purchasing a new machine. This helps to reduce capital expenditure.”

Read said that the CCR offered an extended scope or work over a standard rebuild and took careful planning between the Rio Tinto and Hastings Deering teams.

“The CCR takes up to nine weeks to complete and covers an extended scope of work including power train replacement, hydraulics and electrical components, cab overhaul, work implement overhaul and ET testing and painting,” he said.

“Effective planning is critical to the success of a large-scale project like a CCR. The team needs to ensure all stages of the rebuild have been planned, scheduled and are on time to guarantee machine delivery back to the customer.”

“It is essential to support our customers in their operation.”

By successfully planning the CCR after the success of the C32 repower project, Rio Tinto and Hastings Deering were able to improve the performance of its equipment and compensate for the removal of Dozer 79, Hastings Deering said.

Coleing said: “By undertaking work in this manner, we’ve removed a massive amount of forward log of work that not only gave us immediate availability but provided us with an improved asset through to the end of the machine life.”

JSW, BBURG HD2500RC drill rig impresses at Fortescue’s Solomon iron ore mine

JSW Australia’s ambition to leverage the latest drilling and automation technology is coming to fruition with the deployment of a new high powered, small footprint drill rig to Fortescue Metals Group’s Solomon iron ore mine in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The planned arrival of the HD2500RC was announced around a year ago.

Leveraging IDAT (Intelligent Drilling Applications & Technology) technology, developed by German manufacturer BBURG and customised in conjunction with IDAT, the rig underwent site commissioning in July and its initial production performance to date has been impressive, according to JSW.

The HD2500RC was designed especially for the challenging terrain at Solomon where the preparation of drill pads is difficult and expensive, the company says.

“With JSW’s years of experience on-site and first-hand knowledge of the challenges, along with IDAT’s technology expertise and BBURG’s engineering capability, we had a powerful collaboration for the development of the new rig,” JSW CEO, Warren Fair, says.

He said overall the rig was proving to be more productive, safer and quieter than the existing technology on site.

The HD2500RC joins other new technologies in JSW’s fleet including the Equus green drills developed specifically for bauxite mines and new drilling technology for magnetite mines being developed by IDAT in partnership with German manufacturer Bauer.

Fair concluded: “IDAT brings the technology, JSW brings the operational know-how. So far, it’s proving to be a winning formula.”

SRG Global bolsters South32 relationship with more Worsley Alumina work

SRG Global says it has secured a long-term circa-A$100 million ($72 million) contract with South32’s Worsley Alumina operations to provide specialist refractory services, including gunning and casting and installation of refractory products and anchors.

Works under the contract will commence in October 2020 with a duration of eight years.

South32 has also extended SRG Global’s existing engineered access services contract for a further two years, pocketing the ASX-listed engineering firm another circa-A$25 million. This will see SRG Global continue to provide access services at South32’s Worsley Alumina operations until mid-2027, it said.

David Macgeorge, Managing Director of SRG Global, said: “These contracts are a terrific achievement for SRG Global and we are excited to be expanding our partnership with South32 to continue to deliver long-term value for their Worsley operations.”

As part of the Worsley Alumina operations, bauxite is mined near the town of Boddington, 130 km southeast of Perth, Western Australia. It is then transported on the largest overland conveyor belt in the southern hemisphere, for more than 50 km, to a refinery near the town of Collie, where bauxite is turned into alumina.

Hindalco achieves aluminium industry first with red mud utilisation

Hindalco Industries has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UltraTech Cement, India’s largest manufacturer of cement and concrete, to deliver 1.2 Mt/y of red mud to UltraTech’s 14 plants located across seven states. This agreement will see Hindalco become the world’s first company to achieve 100% red mud utilisation across three of its refineries, it says.

Red mud generated in the alumina manufacturing process is rich in iron oxides, along with alumina, silica and alkali, with the cement industry, Hindalco says, having developed the capability to process red mud as a replacement for mined minerals such as laterite and lithomarge in its process.

Hindalco is supplying red mud to UltraTech Cement plants where it has proved to be an effective substitute for mined materials, successfully replacing up to 3% of clinker raw mix volume, according to the company.

“Use of red mud reduces the cement industry’s dependence on natural resources and promotes a circular economy,” Hindalco said.

Hindalco’s alumina refineries are currently supplying 250,000 t/mth of bauxite residue to cement companies, making Hindalco the world’s first company to have enabled such large scale commercial application of bauxite residue. In the current year, Hindalco aims to achieve 2.5 Mt of bauxite residue utilisation, which will be another global milestone, it says.

Satish Pai, Managing Director of Hindalco, said: “Hindalco has been working with cement companies to develop high-grade inputs for the construction industry. Hindalco has built a strong customer base and supplies red mud to over 40 cement plants every month. We have achieved 100% red mud utilisation at three of our refineries and our vision is to achieve zero-waste alumina production across our operations. Hindalco’s actions underscore our commitment to embracing solutions that have the potential to deliver long-term sustainability impact and transform the future.”

Globally, 160 Mt of red mud is produced annually and stored in large tracts of land which is a serious industry challenge, Hindalco says. To find a sustainable solution, Hindalco has invested in infrastructure and collaborated with cement companies, with UltraTech Cement being a key partner.

KC Jhanwar, Managing Director of UltraTech Cement, said: “UltraTech has been among the early adopters in India on the use of alternative raw materials and fuels in manufacturing and invested to build storage, handling and processing facilities. Use of waste like red mud as an alternative raw material for manufacturing cement requires infrastructure and process modification to ensure a win-win for both business and the environment.”

Last year, UltraTech consumed about 15.73 Mt of industrial waste as alternate raw material and about 300,000 t as alternative fuel in its kilns.

Jhanwar added: “With an annual supply of 1.2 Mt of red mud from Hindalco, we expect to conserve more than 1 Mt of mined natural resources like laterite in our manufacturing process. Enhancing our contribution to the circular economy by strategically increasing the use of waste as raw material and fuel in the cement manufacturing process is in line with our aim to achieve our long-term sustainability goals.”

MICROMINE’s Pitram solution takes control at Greece mine

MICROMINE says it is making a strong foray into Europe’s mining sector with its Pitram fleet management and mine control solution now operating in Greece.

Already used at more than 50 mining operations across six continents, the installation at the Greece mine is Pitram’s third deployment in the Aegean region, following installations at two production projects in Turkey.

“Greece has a wealth of mineral and ore deposits including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, nickel and bauxite – and a history of mining that dates back to ancient times,” Pitram Product Strategy Manager, Chris Higgins, said. “Turkey also has abundant source of industrial raw materials, rare earth minerals and precious metals including gold, copper, zinc, chrome, nickel, iron, lead, mercury, tin and magnesium.

“As a result, international operators and miners are developing projects across the Aegean and Pitram is providing the data insights needed to ensure the operations are well controlled.”

More than 10 mining operations in Europe are currently using Pitram to record, manage and process mine data in real time, according to the company. The scalable solution has now been deployed at the three underground gold, copper and zinc mines in Turkey and Greece.

The Greece project is well advanced with Pitram playing a crucial role in a major refurbishment and expansion of existing operations, the company says.

“Comprising 11 modules – including materials management, OLAP analysis, shift planner and fleet management – Pitram is a sophisticated mine control and management reporting application enabling the miners to capture data, make quicker, evidence-based decisions and allocate resources more effectively,” MICROMINE says.

As production ramped up at the Greece underground mine, the operators chose Pitram, according to MICROMINE, because they needed a solution that would enable them to:

  • Improve development and production mining cycles;
  • Accurately track materials from source to processing;
  • Provide OLAP reporting and analysis;
  • Enhance reactions to, and minimise the impact of, unplanned events; and
  • Increase equipment availability and utilisation.

The implementation of Pitram voice and materials management modules ensured these objectives were met by adapting the solution to meet the specific needs of the site, the company said.

Higgins added: “At MICROMINE we committed to working with our mining clients to deliver the tailored software solutions they need to meet local requirements.

“This includes providing our solutions in the languages needed – that’s why Pitram has been translated into Turkish and Greek. So, with the functionality to switch between English and the local language, all staff on-site can use the application.”

Multotec provides Guinea bauxite verification with sampling equipment

Multotec Process Equipment’s high-precision sampling equipment has found a home in Guinea, with bauxite producers in the West African country using the South Africa-based company’s tools to verify the quality of mined material before it is shipped overseas.

The company has recently provided two tariff sampling plants to a major bauxite producer in the country, including what is possibly one of the largest hammer samplers in the world, it said.

One of the plants is located at the bauxite mining operation itself, while the other is at the export facility where the high-grade bauxite is loaded onto ships.

According to Willem Slabbert, Sampling and Magnetics Specialist at Multotec Process Equipment, the samplers serve a vital role in representatively measuring the quality of the material mined and then exported, as well as its physical characteristics.

“At the mine, the sampling plant gives the mining company and their third-party mining contractor a scientific basis on which to check compliance with their contractual requirements,” Slabbert says.

“Similarly, the plant at the export facility assures the end customer of the quality of bauxite they are purchasing.”

The solution designed for this specific application includes hammer samplers, double-roll crushers, rotating plate dividers, feeder conveyors and barcoded carousels to link the sampling plant’s hourly performance to the indexed samples produced, Multotec explained. There is also protection equipment – a moisture analyser, overbelt magnet and metal detector – and inter-sampling plant conveyors.

“The plants were designed as a holistic solution, to deliver measurements in line with the international standard ISO8685 – ensuring that both sides of a contractual agreement can feel confident in the results,” Slabbert says. “They are also fully automatic and PLC-controlled for maximum efficiency.”

He highlighted that the sampling and materials handling solution was based on extensive test work carried out at Multotec’s facilities in Spartan, near Johannesburg. Crusher tests were also conducted on the specific bauxite, which comprised a substrate material with very hard embedded nodules.

“We identified custom-designed, heavy-duty, double-roll crushers as the optimal solution to deal with the extreme hardness of the nodules in the material,” Slabbert says. “The abrasiveness and stickiness of the Guinean bauxite also required low-friction liners to be designed into each plant.”

Multotec also has a West Africa branch in Ghana to supporting its installations. This branch also sources local components for customers.

Multotec Process Equipment has experience in sampling bauxite in Guinea, says Slabbert, with a sampling plant installed two decades ago for another bauxite producer.

Worley to help sustain Alcoa of Australia’s mines, refineries and smelter

Worley says it has been awarded a three‐year services contract with Alcoa of Australia for the company’s integrated mining, refining and smelting operations.

Under the contract, Worley will provide engineering and project delivery services for Alcoa’s site‐based sustaining capital program of works.

The contract continues the existing relationship between Alcoa and Worley, and establishes Worley as the preferred engineering services provider for baseload works across the Wagerup, Pinjarra and Kwinana alumina refineries, Bunbury port terminal and the Willowdale and Huntly (pictured) bauxite mining operations in Western Australia, it said. Worley will also support Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter in Victoria, Australia.

The services will be executed by Worley’s Australian teams in Perth and Geelong and supported by its global integrated delivery team, the company added.

Chris Ashton, Chief Executive Officer of Worley, said: “As Australia’s leading energy services company, we are pleased to continue supporting Alcoa’s Australian operations. This portfolio is one of the largest in our mining, minerals and metals business and includes our specialist alumina, bauxite and aluminium teams.”

Motorola Solutions keeps essential services running at Rio Tinto aluminium ops

Motorola Solutions says it is helping Rio Tinto’s aluminium business continue supplying its customers while protecting people and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two companies partnered to design and roll out a back-up communications solution for Rio Tinto Aluminium’s Integrated Operations Centre (IOC), in Brisbane, Queensland. The system enables continued critical communications between mines during an emergency and was developed and deployed in just five days, according to Motorola.

The existing IOC provides 24/7 monitoring of all safety, production and quality aspects at bauxite mines in Weipa, Queensland, and Gove, Northern Territory, and is essential to coordinating Rio Tinto’s bauxite supply to Australia alumina plants and export markets, the company said. Rio’s Weipa operations include three bauxite mines, processing facilities, shiploaders, an export wharf, two ports, power stations, a rail network and ferry terminals; while Gove produced 12.2 Mt of bauxite last year.

“If the IOC becomes inaccessible for any reason, Rio Tinto can continue tracking mine production movements via its mission-critical TETRA digital two-way radio communications system, which feeds directly into the mining organisation’s Disaster Recovery Centre,” Motorola said.

Rio Tinto uses a combination of TETRA DIMETRA™ and MOTOTRBO™ radio handsets and dispatch consoles across the mine sites to monitor and manage field operations safely and efficiently, it added.

“The solution forms an important part of Rio Tinto’s business continuity plans to keep operations running safely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling commercial supply chain continuity and planning for future eventualities,” Motorola said.

Martin Chappell, General Manager of Energy and Natural Resources for Motorola Solutions Australia & New Zealand, said: “Any communications equipment used in mining must adhere to the highest standards to keep workers safe and maintain security and reliability across the entire operation.

“Through a combination of rugged radios, purpose-built dispatch consoles and essential back-up links, we are providing Rio Tinto Aluminium with effective protection for its people and assets to ensure business continuity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Miners need to do more in climate change, decarbonisation battle, McKinsey says

A report from consultancy McKinsey has raised concerns about the mining industry’s climate change and decarbonisation strategy, arguing it may not go far enough in reducing emissions in the face of pressure from governments, investors, and activists.

The report, Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know, from Lindsay Delevingne, Will Glazener, Liesbet Grégoir, and Kimberly Henderson, explains that extreme weather – tied to the potential effects of climate change – is already disrupting mining operations globally.

“Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries pledged to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C, and ideally not more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels,” the authors said. “That target, if pursued, would manifest in decarbonisation across industries, creating major shifts in commodity demand for the mining industry and likely resulting in declining global mining revenue pools.”

They added: “Mining-portfolio evaluation must now account for potential decarbonisation of other sectors.”

The sector will also face pressure from governments, investors, and society to reduce emissions, according to the authors.

“Mining is currently responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions from the sector (those incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively) amount to 1%, and fugitive methane emissions from coal mining are estimated at 3-6%.

“A significant share of global emissions – 28% – would be considered Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including the combustion of coal.”

While there have been a number of high-profile mining companies making carbon emission pledges in the past 18 months – BHP pledging $400 million of investment in a low carbon plan being one notable example – the authors say the industry has only just begun to set emissions-reduction goals.

“Current targets published by mining companies range from 0-30% by 2030, far below the Paris Agreement goals, which may not be ambitious enough in many cases,” they said.

Through operational efficiency, and electrification and renewable-energy use, mines can theoretically fully decarbonise (excluding fugitive methane), according to the authors, with the disclaimer that building a climate strategy, “won’t be quick or easy”.

Water/heat

Water stress was one area the authors homed in on, saying that climate change is expected to cause more frequent droughts and floods, altering the supply of water to mining sites and disrupting operations.

The authors, using McKinsey’s MineSpans database on copper, gold, iron ore, and zinc, recently ran and analysed a water-stress and flooding scenario to emphasise the incoming problems.

The authors found that 30-50% of the production of these four commodities is concentrated in areas where water stress is already “high”.

“In 2017, these sites accounted for roughly $150 billion in total annual revenues and were clustered into seven water-stress ‘hot spots’ for mining: Central Asia, the Chilean coast, eastern Australia, the Middle East, southern Africa, western Australia, and a large zone in western North America,” the authors said.

The authors continued: “Climate science indicates that these hot spots will worsen in the coming decades. In Chile, 80% of copper production is already located in ‘extremely high’ water-stressed and ‘arid’ areas; by 2040, it will be 100%. In Russia, 40% of the nation’s iron ore production, currently located in ‘high’ water-stressed areas, is likely to move to ‘extreme’ water stress by 2040.”

And, mining regions not accustomed to water stress are projected to become increasingly vulnerable, according to the report.

By 2040, 5% of current gold production likely will shift from ‘low–medium’ water stress to ‘medium–high’; 7% of zinc output could move from ‘medium–high’ to ‘high’ water stress, and 6% of copper production could shift from ‘high’ to ‘extremely high’ water stress.

The authors said: “Depending on the water-intensiveness of the processing approach, such changes, while seemingly minor in percentage terms, could be critical to a mine’s operations or licence to operate.”

Mining executives in these regions are acutely aware of the water issue, according to the authors.

“For instance, Leagold Mining recently shut down its RDM gold mine in Brazil for two months because of drought conditions, even though it had built a dam and a water pipeline,” they said.

Even in areas with low water stress, certain water-intensive mining processes are jeopardised.

“In Germany – not a country known for being vulnerable to drought – a potash miner was forced to close two locations because of severe water shortages in the summer of 2018, losing nearly $2 million a day per site,” they said.

“The frequency and severity of these conditions are expected to increase along with the current climate trajectory.”

To improve resiliency, companies can reduce the water intensity of their mining processes, the authors said. They can also recycle used water and reduce water loss from evaporation, leaks, and waste. Mining companies can, for example, prevent evaporation by putting covers on small and medium dams.

In the long term, more capital-intensive approaches are possible, according to the authors. This could involve new water infrastructure, such as dams and desalination plants. Companies can also rely on so-called “natural capital”, like wetland areas, to improve groundwater drainage.

The authors said: “The option of securing water rights is becoming harder and can take years of engagement because of increased competition for natural resources and tensions between operators and local communities. Basin and regional planning with regulatory and civic groups is an important strategy but cannot alone solve the underlying problem of water stress.”

On the reverse, flooding from extreme rains can also cause operational disruptions, including mine closure, washed-out roads, or unsafe water levels in tailing dams, with flooding affecting some commodities more than others based on their locations.

The authors’ analysis showed iron ore and zinc are the most exposed to ‘extremely high’ flood occurrence, at 50% and 40% of global volume, respectively.

“The problem is expected to get worse, particularly in six ‘wet spots’ likely to experience a 50-60% increase in extreme precipitation this century: northern Australia, South America, and southern Africa during Southern Hemisphere summer, and central and western Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and Indonesia during Southern Hemisphere winter,” the authors said.

Companies can adopt flood-proof mine designs that improve drainage and pumping techniques, the authors said, mentioning the adaptation of roads, or the building of sheeted haul roads, as examples.

Moving to an in-pit crushing and conveying method would also help alleviate potential floods, replacing mine site haulage and haul roads with conveyors.

When it comes to incoming extreme heat in already-hot places – like China, parts of North and West Africa and Australia – the authors noted that worker productivity could fall and cooling costs may rise, in additon to putting workers’ health (and sometimes their lives) at risk.

“Indirect socioeconomic consequences from climate change can also affect the political environment surrounding a mine,” they said.

Shifting commodity demand

Ongoing decarbonisation is likely to have a major impact on coal – “currently about 50% of the global mining market, would be the most obvious victim of such shifts”, the authors said – but it would also affect virgin-ore markets.

“In a 2°C scenario, bauxite, copper, and iron ore will see growth from new decarbonisation technologies offset by increased recycling rates, as a result of the growing circular economy and focus on metal production from recycling versus virgin ore,” they said.

At the other end of the spectrum, niche minerals could experience dramatic growth. As the global electrification of industries continues, electric vehicles and batteries will create growth markets for cobalt, lithium, and nickel.

Emerging technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture would also boost demand for platinum, palladium, and other catalyst materials, while rare earths would be needed for wind-turbine magnets.

The authors said: “Fully replacing revenues from coal will be difficult. Yet many of the world’s biggest mining companies will need to rebalance non-diverse mineral portfolios.

“Many of the largest mining companies derive the bulk of their earnings from one or two commodities. Copper-heavy portfolios may benefit from demand growth due to widespread electrification, for example. And iron ore- and aluminium-heavy portfolios may see an upside from decarbonisation technologies, but they are also more likely to be hit by rising recycling rates.”

According to the authors, the mining industry generates between 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Further down the value chain (Scope 3 emissions), the metals industry contributes roughly 4.2 gigatons, mainly through steel and aluminium production.

To stay on track for a global 2°C scenario, all sectors would need to reduce CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by at least 50% by 2050, they said.

To limit warming to 1.5°C, a reduction of at least 85% would likely be needed.

“Mining companies’ published emissions targets tend to be more modest than that, setting low targets, not setting targets beyond the early 2020s, or focusing on emissions intensity rather than absolute numbers,” the authors said.

To estimate decarbonisation potential in mining, the authors started with a baseline of current emissions by fuel source, based on the MineSpans database of mines’ operational characteristics, overlaid with the possible impact of, and constraints on, several mining decarbonisation levers.

The potential for mines varied by commodity, mine type, power source, and grid emissions, among other factors.

“Across the industry, non-coal mines could fully decarbonise by using multiple levers. Some are more economical than others – operational efficiency, for example, can make incremental improvements to the energy intensity of mining production while requiring little capital expenditure,” they said. Moving to renewable sources of electricity is becoming increasingly feasible too, even in off-grid environments, as the cost of battery packs is projected to decline 50% from 2017 to 2030, according to the authors.

“Electrification of mining equipment, such as diesel trucks and gas-consuming appliances, is only starting to become economical. Right now, only 0.5% of mining equipment is fully electric.

“However, in some cases, battery-electric vehicles have a 20% lower total cost of ownership versus traditional internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Newmont, for example, recently started production at its all-electric Borden mine in Ontario, Canada.”

The authors said: “Several big mining companies have installed their own sustainability committees, signalling that mining is joining the wave of corporate sustainability reporting and activity. Reporting emissions and understanding decarbonisation pathways are the first steps toward setting targets and taking action.”

Yet, these actions are currently too modest to reach the 1.5-2°C scenario and may not be keeping up with society’s expectations – “as increasingly voiced by investors seeking disclosures, companies asking their suppliers to decarbonise, and communities advocating for action on environmental issues”.

They concluded: “Mining companies concerned about their long-term reputation, licence to operate, or contribution to decarbonisation efforts may start to consider more aggressive decarbonisation and resilience plans.”