BHP says new renewable energy contracts it has recently signed in Chile will reduce energy prices for its Escondida and Spence copper mines by around 20% and help displace up to 3 Mt/y of CO2 emissions from these operations.
These agreements not only benefit BHP’s business but generate strong environmental and social value, according to Daniel Malchuk, President Operations for BHP’s Minerals Americas business.
BHP operates and own 57.5% of the Escondida mine, a leading producer of copper concentrate and cathodes from a copper porphyry deposit, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Spence, which is 100% owned by BHP, is also in northern Chile.
He said: “Population growth and higher living standards combined with greater electrification are expected to push up demand for copper. This means that copper in products such as electric cars and renewable energy infrastructure, which are vital to the world’s sustainable growth, must be produced to the highest environmental aspirations.”
The new energy contracts, along with BHP’s investment in desalinated water in Chile, demonstrate social value in action and help drive the wider agenda for sustainable green copper, according to Malchuk.
Social value is one strategic pillar the company embeds in all its decision-making and informs the way in which it provides resources and generates long-term, sustainable value. This was the subject of BHP Chief External Affairs Officer, Geoff Healy’s speech in London earlier this month.
Malchuk said the company has negotiated four new power contracts that will meet its energy requirements at Escondida and Spence from 100% renewable energy sources by the mid-2020s.
“When fully operational, these renewable supply arrangements will eliminate virtually all of Escondida and Spence Scope 2 emissions (emissions from purchased energy), effectively displacing up to 3 Mt of CO2 annually compared to the fossil fuel contracts they replace,” he said. “This is the equivalent to annual emissions from about 700,000 combustion engine cars and accounts for around 70% of BHP’s Minerals Americas total greenhouse gas emissions.”
These actions also support Chile’s wider “Energia 2025” power policy target for 20% of all Chilean energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Following a competitive tender process, Escondida and Spence agreed separate 15-year contracts for 3 TWh/y and 10-year contracts for 3 TWh/year with ENEL Generación Chile and Colbún respectively. The ENEL contracts will begin in August 2021 and the Colbún contracts in January 2022, BHP said, with power supplied from solar, wind and hydro sources.
Malchuk said: “These contracts are practical examples of our commitment to social value that are linked to a sound business case. We estimate the agreements will reduce energy prices at our Escondida and Spence copper mine operations by around 20%, provide our operations flexibility and security of supply, and strengthen our ability to deliver sustainable copper across our supply chain.”
On top of this, the company has confirmed that its Spence operations will begin using desalinated water as the main source of supply from mid-2020 upon completion of a 1,000 l/s capacity desalination plant. This was part of a plan the company outlined in 2017 to grow the Spence operation.
Malchuk said: “Water is a precious commodity that is critical to our operations in Chile and to the communities where we operate in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions in the world. We recognise our operations have an impact on the environment given the immense amount of water they consume.”
He added: “Our Water Stewardship position statement, launched last month, outlines our vision for a water secure world by 2030. It sets out our actions to improve water management within our operations and contribute to more effective water governance beyond the mine gate.
“We strongly support the UN Sustainable Development Goals on access to clean and affordable water. That’s why we will set public targets and engage industry, communities and governments to improve governance, transparency and collaboration in water management.”