Tag Archives: decarbonisation

ERM on executing the mining sector’s sustainability strategies

With sustainability close to the number one topic shaping the business landscape, the mining industry faces perhaps more scrutiny today than ever before. From stakeholder engagement to employee welfare and the emissions generated from using mined commodities, there is a spectrum of issues on which mining companies are judged. Not just by traditional critics such as NGOs, but increasingly by policymakers, investors and consumers themselves.

As a result, mining companies are seeking the advice of consultants that live and breathe environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to adapt to this evolving backdrop (see the mining consultants focus in IM October 2021 for more on this).

In this regard, they don’t come much bigger than ERM, which calls itself the largest global pure play sustainability consultancy. With a remit that goes into strategic, operational and tactical challenges, the company’s services have been in serious demand of late.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead; Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead; Peter Rawlings, Low Carbon Economy Transition Lead; and Geraint Bowden, Regional Client Director – Mining, were happy to go into some detail about how the company is serving the industry across multiple disciplines.

In demand

According to the four, there is increasing demand for services from miners interested in energy/battery minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and rhodium (PGMs)) on the back of rising numbers of new mines coming onto the scene, “shorter supply chains to customers”, the perceived need to secure domestic supply of these minerals, and requirements of “evidence of responsibly-produced certifications from industry organisations such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)”.

Such trends have been underwritten by a shift in both the requirements and considerations around the extraction of these minerals, according to Molyneux.

“In the last five to seven years, the main ESG incentives for change have come from access to capital (ie investor ESG preferences, especially in relation to catastrophic incidents),” he said.

“Over the last three years, we have seen a strong rise in expectations from downstream customers, particularly leading brands.”

Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead

Automotive original equipment manufacturers like BMW and Daimler are placing sustainability at the centre of their brands, according to ERM. Their initial focus has been on ‘net-zero’ driving/electrification – and they have made progress on this with several major electric car launches. They then shifted to examining the carbon emissions and ESG, or responsible practices, of tier-one and tier-two component manufacturers. The last step has been a full analysis of the ESG credentials of input materials right back to source, ie the mine.

“We see a shift from the historic lens of customers managing supply risk by sourcing from organisations which ‘do little/no harm’ (eg human rights compliance, catastrophic incident avoidance) to supply partners that can contribute to the ‘do net good’ or ‘create value for all stakeholders’ (ie communities, workforce, nature positive),” Pearce said.

Such a shift has resulted in more clients considering “circular thinking” in their operational strategy, as well as carrying out risk reviews and transformation projects focused on a company’s social or cultural heritage. Tied to this, these same companies have been evaluating their water use, biodiversity requirements and, of course, decarbonisation efforts.

It is the latter on which the steel raw materials companies predominantly have been looking for advice, according to ERM.

The focus has been on ‘green’ iron ore, low-carbon steel and ‘circular’ steel, according to Molyneux and Bowden, with ERM providing input on how companies in this supply chain can integrate sustainability into their strategy and operations.

On the thermal coal side, meanwhile, it is a very different type of ERM service in demand: mine retirements, closure/local/regional regeneration transitions and responsible disposals.

Delivering on decarbonisation

The mining industry decarbonisation targets have come thick and fast in the last 18-24 months, with the latest announcement from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) seeing all 28 mining and metals members sign up to a goal of net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Many have gone further than Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company) emissions, looking at including Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain) targets.

Fortescue Metals Group, this month, announced what it said is an industry-leading target to achieve net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2040, for example.

These are essential goals – and ones that all interested parties are calling for – in order to deliver on the Paris Agreement, yet many miners are not yet in the position to deliver on them, according to Pearce, Molyneux, Rawlings and Bowden.

“Miners need to look at decarbonisation at a holistic level across their operations and value chain, and cannot just delegate the net zero requirements to individual assets,” Rawlings said. “The solutions needed require investment and are often at a scale well beyond individual assets/sites.”

Much of this decarbonisation effort mirrors other industries, with the use of alternative fuels for plant and equipment, accessing renewable electricity supplies, etc, they said.

Process-specific activities can present challenges and is where innovation is required.

“These hard to abate areas are where a lot of efforts are currently focused,” Rawlings said.

Tied into this discussion is the allowance and estimates made for carbon.

There has been anecdotal evidence of miners taking account of carbon in annual and technical reports – a recent standout example being OZ Minerals inclusion of a carbon price in determining the valuation of its Prominent Hill shaft expansion project in South Australia – but there is no current legislation in place.

“We are seeing a broad spectrum of price and sophistication (targeted audience, knowledge level), but it is an active board level discussion for most clients,” Bowden said on this subject. “Most clients view this as market-driven requirements as opposed to a voluntary disclosure.”

This has been driven, in part, from the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which many miners – including all the majors – are aligning their reporting with.

Some clients are also looking into scenarios to work around carbon regimes such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which proposes a carbon-based levy on imports of specific products.

Having acquired several companies in recent months focused on the low carbon economy transition – such as E4tech, Element Energy and RCG – ERM feels best placed to provide the technical expertise and experience to deliver the sustainable energy solutions miners require to decarbonise their operations.

“With these companies, combined with ERM’s expertise, it means we can support clients on the decarbonisation journeys from the initial strategy and ambition development through to implementation and delivery of their roadmaps,” Rawlings said. “We can support clients from boots to boardroom as they assess decarbonisation options and technologies; help them understand the financial, policy and practical aspects linked to deployment of solutions; and access the financing necessary to support deployment.”

ESG dilemmas

There is more to this evolving backdrop than setting and meeting ambitious environmental goals, yet, in ERM’s experience, the advice provided by consultants – and requested by miners – has historically been focused on individual ESG domains.

“This has often been driven by their realisation that their (miner’s) in-house policies and standards require updating,” Pearce said.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead

A siloed or disaggregated approach to ESG strategy development often reduces risk, but rarely generates value for the enterprise at hand, according to Pearce.

“What we have learned is that in order for organisations to create value, they need to focus on value drivers for the corporation,” she said. “These value levers are typically influenced by an integrated suite of ESG dimensions. For example, this could be looking at carbon emissions, connected with water use and nature, connected with local socio-economic development.”

“Sustainability and ESG are about understanding the inter-relationships between our social, natural and economic environments over the longer term. It cannot be about addressing one topic at a time or responding to the loudest voices.”

This is where ERM’s ‘second-generation’ ESG advice, which is driven by data and opportunities to create value as well as manage risk, is fit for the task.

“We are also finding that, at its heart, the central issue to second-generation ESG performance delivery/improvement for our clients is not just the strategy, but a willingness of organisations to reflect on their core values, how these have driven their traditional approaches and decisions and how they will need to evolve these if they want to achieve a genuine brand and reputation for ESG and achieve impact on the value drivers they have selected,” she added.

Such thinking is proving definitive in ERM’s mining sector mergers and acquisition due diligence.

“We have multiple experiences where clients have asked us to carry out an ESG review of a target portfolio, only to find that there is too great a gap between the target’s ESG asset footprint to align them with the client’s standard – or, that the carbon, water, closure or tailings profile of the target carries a too high-risk profile,” Molyneux said.

This is presenting clients with a dilemma as they want to increase their exposure to certain minerals, but are, in some instances, finding M&A is a too high-risk route. At the same time, the lead time to find and develop their own new assets is longer than they would wish for building market share.

Such a market dynamic opens the door for juniors looking for assets early in their lifecycles, yet it places a high load on the management teams of these companies to think strategically about the ESG profile of the asset they are setting the foundations for to eventually appeal to a potential acquirer.

“This is, in itself, a dilemma because, typically, the cash scarcity at the junior stage leads management teams to focus on the immediate technical challenges, sometimes at the cost of also addressing the priority non-technical challenges,” Bowden said.

Those companies who can take a strategic view on the ESG requirements of the future – rooted in a deep understanding of how to deliver change on the ground – will be best placed in such a market, and ERM says it is on hand to provide the tools to develop such an appropriate approach.

(Lead photo credit: @Talaat Bakri, ERM)

Rayven’s I4 Mining to support industry’s energy transition, decarbonisation and profitability plans

Rayven has announced the launch of I4 Mining, a new suite of completely interoperable digital mining solutions designed to, it says, accelerate the mining sector’s transition to a profitable zero-harm, zero-carbon, zero-waste future.

I4 Mining offers six ready-to-deploy solutions (plus a bespoke development option) featuring pre-built logic, artificial intelligence and enterprise functionality; allowing them to be deployed and performing in the field in weeks, the company says.

Rayven says it is already working with several large global miners to support their key strategic goals, with I4 Mining leveraging Rayven’s existing partner network, as well as the broader Rayven team, to provide data science and implementation services globally.

Jared Oken, CEO of Rayven, said: “We are truly excited to be able to provide the mining sector with a new suite of solutions that will enable businesses to modernise to support energy transition, achieve their own carbon neutrality commitments and protect short-to-medium term profitability.”

Phillip McBride, Rayven’s CSO who will be leading the new I4 Mining unit, added: “The mining industry is already undergoing a significant paradigm shift and it has a very clear future: one that supports energy transition whilst delivering on zero-harm, zero-carbon and zero-waste strategic goals.

“I4 Mining’s new suite of solutions combine the Industry 4.0 technologies needed to achieve this transformation both fast and profitably, including pre-built artificial intelligence and adaptive analytics functionality, giving miners the specialist platform that they need to effectively transition their operations whilst maintaining short-term success.

“The solutions can be deployed in weeks, are completely interoperable, and are commercially viable at scale – de-risking transformation projects and enabling miners to prove the efficacy of Industry 4.0 technologies and deliver tangible results, fast.”

The I4 Mining solutions include:

  • Health + Safety: connect workforce, plant and technologies, utilising historical and real-time data to prevent and predict workforce harm across operations;
  • Environment + Community: a complete environmental monitoring, management and compliance solution that enables miners to monitor operations in real-time and use artificial intelligence to predict, prevent and quickly remediate breaches;
  • Asset Monitor + Maintenance: a real-time asset monitoring, utilisation optimisation and predictive maintenance solution all-in-one;
  • Yield + Production: monitor and analyse all of the variables that go into material extraction, screening and processing to uncover improvements and then seize them to increase yields and efficiency;
  • Energy + Resource: optimise the usage of the inputs that go into mining operations and reduce waste to improve profitability and utilisation;
  • Oversight: improves real-time strategic decision making and speed of execution by providing up-to-date, accurate data from all of an organisation’s sources into an easy-to-use predictive analytics and operational control engine; and
  • Create + Disrupt: bespoke solution development.

Ferrexpo sets decarbonisation course to 2030 and 2050

Iron ore pellet producer Ferrexpo has announced inaugural decarbonisation targets that includes a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2050.

In addition, the group has undertaken an initial commitment to achieve a minimum of a 30% reduction in combined Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, against the group’s baseline year for emissions (2019), in line with its peer group.

The company is engaging with climate change specialists Ricardo Plc to help develop science-based decarbonisation targets as a second-phase of publishing carbon commitments.

Ricardo has also been hired to enhance the group’s existing climate change scenario reporting and review the role of Ferrexpo’s iron ore pellets within the circular economy. Results of this analysis is expected to enhance the group’s carbon reduction targets and to further develop climate change reporting in 2022, it says.

In the 18 months to June 2021, the group has recorded a carbon reduction in excess of 20%, according to Jim North, Interim Group Chief Executive Officer. This, he said, is a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the environment.

“Through working with Ricardo, it is our intention to engage with stakeholders in 2022 with a clear, science-based understanding of our carbon journey that lies ahead,” he said.

Tim Curtis – Energy & Environment Managing Director, Ricardo Plc, added: “In setting targets to decarbonise the manufacturing of their iron ore pellets, Ferrexpo is driving change in the industry which will contribute to a low carbon transition and benefit organisations using Ferrexpo products in their supply chain.”

Some of the carbon reduction targets the company has pursued to this point include plans for a 5 MW pilot solar plant, use of sunflower husks in its pelletiser, and the potential use of a trolley line at its iron ore operations.

ICMM members pledge to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050 or sooner

Members of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) have committed to a goal of net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

This landmark commitment was made in an open letter signed by the CEOs of ICMM’s company members.

Although the companies within ICMM have individual decarbonisation targets, which in some cases go beyond ICMM’s collective commitment, this represents a joint ambition.

“The rate and nature of the ultimate decline in emissions will vary across the different commodities and geographies represented by our diverse membership,” the ICMM says. “Yet our approach to individually setting and meeting targets will be consistent and include the following, no later than the end of 2023 where these do not already exist:

  • “Setting Scope 1 and 2 targets: we will build clear pathways to achieving net zero Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2050 or sooner, through meaningful short and/or medium-term target;
  • “Accelerating action on Scope 3 GHG emissions: we recognise that Scope 3 is critical to minimising our overall impact and we will set Scope 3 targets, if not by the end of 2023, as soon as possible. Although all Scope 3 action depends on the combined efforts of producers, suppliers and customers, some commodities face greater technological and collaborative barriers than others. We will play a leading role in overcoming these barriers and advancing partnerships that enable credible target setting and emission reductions across value chains;
  • “Covering all material sources: our targets will cover all material sources of emissions, aligning to the GHG Protocol definition of organisational boundaries and materiality;
  • “Focusing on absolute reductions: for some operations, intensity rather than absolute targets may be more appropriate in the short and medium term. Where intensity targets are used, we will disclose the corresponding absolute increase or decrease in GHG emissions;
  • “Applying robust methodologies: we will use target-setting methodologies that are aligned with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and disclose in detail the assumptions we use; and
  • “Disclosing openly and transparently: we will report our progress on Scopes 1, 2 and 3 annually, obtain external verification over our performance, and report in alignment with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.”

These commitments are additional to and have been incorporated into an update of ICMM’s Climate Change Position Statement which had several pre-existing commitments on performance and disclosure. Action on climate change is an integral part of ICMM’s Mining Principles, representing the comprehensive commitment to a responsible mining and metals industry, it says.

Rohitesh Dhawan, CEO, ICMM, said: “As the suppliers of the minerals and metals that are critical to decarbonisation and sustainable development, we have a particular responsibility to minimise the impact of our operations on the environment. ICMM members’ collective commitment to net zero Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2050 is a pivotal moment in our history. We are speaking with one voice, representing approximately one third of the global mining and metals industry – including more than 650 sites in over 50 countries – so that we drive emissions reduction at a significant scale.

“ICMM members have and will continue to set meaningful short and/or medium-term targets to build clear pathways to achieving this goal, while also accelerating action on addressing Scope 3 emissions and enhancing disclosure. We encourage other mining and metals companies, suppliers and customers to join us in decarbonising commodity value chains so that we collectively accelerate climate action in our wider industry.”

Gonzalo Muñoz, UNFCCC High Level Climate Action Champion, added: “I welcome the leadership and joint ambition of ICMM members to commit to a goal of net-zero Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2050 or sooner, and I strongly encourage companies to set scope 3 GHG emissions reduction targets by the end of 2023. The High-Level Climate Action Champions encourage members to strive to set the most ambitious science-based targets possible in line with the criteria of the Race to Zero campaign.”

Beca and Black & Veatch to collaborate on sustainable solutions for Australian mining sector

Beca and Black & Veatch (B&BV) have announced a collaboration to deliver sustainability and decarbonisation solutions, combined with a strong local presence, to service minerals and metals operations across Australia.

Beca is an employee-owned professional services firm that has been delivering engineering, advisory and management consulting services across Asia-Pacific for over 100 years, while Black & Veatch is an employee-owned global engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company with, it says, a more than 100-year track record of innovation in sustainable infrastructure.

“Clients recognise the need for more sustainable operations and more efficient resource management approaches from extraction and processing through to delivery,” Paul Language, a Business Director at Beca, said. “Our collaboration brings sustainability expertise, at scale, to mining operations across Australia.

“We understand what it takes for miners to succeed in Australia.”

Jim Spenceley, Senior Vice President of Black & Veatch’s Mining Business, added: “Clients have set ambitious sustainability and decarbonisation goals and we are helping them develop and implement the sustainability roadmaps that will make these goals attainable. For many years B&BV have collaborated for the benefit of clients in New Zealand and we look forward to extending our services to Australia.”

Part of B&BV’s strength is a strong shared culture. Both are employee-owned, a business model that has been delivering success for more than a century for each organisation. Both companies are committed to the safe delivery and management of critical infrastructure and embracing reconciliation in the minerals and metals sector.

“Sustainability and responsible corporate stewardship are core to both companies’ operations, in the way they act and the projects they deliver,” they added.

RPMGlobal adds electric vehicles to the HaaS simulation mix

RPMGlobal says it has further advanced its environmental, social and governance (ESG) software capabilities following the completion of enhancements to its Haulage as a Service (HaaS) simulation product to incorporate support for electric vehicles.

In addition, the company is planning to add hydrogen haulage vehicle technology into the mix later.

As a cloud enabled, service-orientated approach to haulage analysis, HaaS provides mining companies with the capability to undertake haulage calculations in a cloud environment, according to RPM.

The introduction of electric vehicle support will allow users to model energy usage and regenerative braking within HaaS, providing users with the ability to complete travel time calculations programmatically in a cloud-based environment.

RPMGlobal’s investment in both cloud and sustainability has increased significantly in the past year, culminating in the latest release of HaaS. HaaS, which was the first RPMGlobal solution to be released as a true Software as a Service offering, is a native cloud application that gives miners increased operational agility to undertake haulage calculations from any location, the company explained.

RPMGlobal Chief Executive Officer, Richard Mathews, said the latest release further demonstrated the company’s commitment to support mining organisations on their journey towards environmentally responsible operations.

“RPMGlobal is focused on contributing towards a sustainable future for the people and organisations that we work with and it is great to see the advancements that our software is contributing to in this space,” he said.

With hydrogen now viewed as having an important role to play in the industry’s bid to decarbonise through the integration of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the next step for RPMGlobal’s haulage simulation platforms will be the introduction of hydrogen vehicle technology to the mix. Foundation work has already started on the offering, with completion planned later this calendar year, the company said.

“This new functionality will allow organisations to simulate hydrogen-powered vehicles and run scenarios with the specific characteristics of the new hydrogen technology,” RPM said. “The simulation platform will then provide a way to assess options and scenarios for diesel, electric or hydrogen powered vehicles in any combination.”

Mathews views the platform as critical capability for mining organisations and original equipment manufacturers as they search for ways to remove reliance on fossil fuels in mining.

“As more and more organisations commit to emission reduction targets, it will be critical to have software that can simulate different outcomes based on what combination of diesel-, electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles are deployed within the mining operation and allow users to quantify the results of each scenario in a way that assists them to make the best decisions inclusive of sustainability considerations,” he said.

An increasing number of miners have formally set emissions targets while the majors have committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Many of the plans to reach these decarbonisation commitments have an element that focuses on haulage of material and the shift from diesel to alternative energy sources that are more sustainable, according to Mathews.

“Whether an organisation is looking to battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen, or trolley infrastructure as a greener alternative, our intent is to ensure RPMGlobal’s simulation solutions can support and enhance those decisions into the future,” he said.

The company added electric vehicle support to its haulage simulation platforms, HAULSIM and SIMULATE, back in May.

Yamana Gold retains electrification path for Wasamac in new study

Yamana Gold has reiterated a plan to minimise the amount of carbon emissions generated with the development and operation of the Wasamac gold project in Quebec, Canada, in its first study since acquiring the asset from Monarch Gold.

Monarch, prior to being taken over by Yamana Gold, had laid out plans for an underground mine at Wasamac producing 6,000 t/d, on average, with an expected mine life of 11 years. It expected to use a Rail-Veyor® electrically powered, remote-controlled underground haulage system in addition to an almost entirely electric fleet of production and development equipment.

The December 2018 feasibility study by BBA indicated the Wasamac deposit hosted a measured and indicated mineral resource of 29.86 Mt at an average grade of 2.7 g/t Au, for a total of 2.6 Moz of gold, and proven and probable mineral reserves of 21.46 Mt at an average grade of 2.56 g/t Au, for a total of 1.8 Moz of gold. The study forecast average annual production of 142,000 oz of gold for 11 years at a cash cost of $550/oz.

With drilling, due diligence and further studies, Yamana Gold, in studies forming the new feasibility level studies, has come up with baseline technical and financial aspects of the Wasamac project that, it says, underpin the decision to advance the project to production.

This has resulted in a few changes to the Wasamac plan.

For starters, the company plans to use the extract the now 1.91 Moz of reserves quicker than Monarch’s strategy, with a rapid production ramp-up in the first year followed by sustained gold production of approximately 200,000 oz/y for at least the next four years.

Including the ramp-up phase, average annual production for the first five years of operation is expected to be 184,000 oz, the company said, with life of mine production of 169,000 oz/y. Mill throughput has been increased to 7,000 t/d, on average, but the plant and associated infrastructure were being sized for 7,500 t/d. Production could start up in the December quarter of 2026, the initial capital expense was expected to be $416 million and all-in sustaining costs over the life of mine had been calculated at $828/oz.

The use of a conveyor is still within this plan, but a company spokesperson told IM that Yamana was now considering a conventional belt conveyor rather than the Rail-Veyor system.

Yamana explained: “The optimised materials handling system uses ore passes and haul trucks to transport ore from the production levels to a central underground primary crusher. The haul trucks will be automated to allow haulage to continue between shifts. From the underground crusher, ore will be transported to the crushed-ore stockpile on the surface using a 3-km-long conventional conveyor system in two segments.”

Yamana added: “Using a conveyor rather than diesel trucks to transport ore to surface reduces CO2 emissions by 2,233 t/y, equivalent to taking 500 cars off the road. Over the life of mine, the company expects to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20,000 t.”

The aim to use electric vehicles wherever possible remains in place.

“The Wasamac underground mine is designed to create a safe working environment and reduce consumption of non-renewable energy through the use of electric and high-efficiency equipment,” the company said. “Yamana has selected electric and battery-electric mobile equipment provided that the equipment is available at the required specifications.

“Battery-electric underground haul trucks are not yet available at the required capacity with autonomous operation, so diesel trucks have been selected in combination with the underground conveyor. However, Yamana continues to collaborate with equipment suppliers with the expectation that the desired battery-electric equipment will be available before Wasamac is in operation.”

In tandem with this, the company plans to use a ventilation on demand solution and high-efficiency fans to reduce its power requirements. This will likely rely on an underground LTE network.

“Heating of the underground mine and surface facilities is designed with the assumption of propane burners, but an opportunity exists to extend the natural gas line to the project site,” it added. “Yamana has initiated discussions with the natural gas supplier and will study this opportunity further as the project advances.”

The site for the processing plant and offices is confined to a small footprint strategically located in a naturally concealed area, and the processing plant has been designed with a low profile to minimise the visual impact as well as minimise noise and dust, according to Yamana.

The primary crusher, previously planned to be located on surface, has been moved underground, with the crushed material transported to surface from the underground mining area using conventional conveyors and stored on surface in a covered stockpile to control dust.

Several design improvements to the previous Wasamac plans have also been made to reduce consumption of fresh water to minimise the effect on watersheds, according to Yamana. Underground mine water will be used in the processing plant, minimising the draw of fresh water and reducing the required size of the mill basin pond.

The Wasamac tailings storage strategy is designed to minimise environmental footprint and mitigate risk, it added.

“Around 39% of tailings will be deposited underground as paste fill and 61% of tailings will be pumped as a slurry to the filter plant located approximately 6 km northwest of the processing plant and then hauled to the nearby dry-stack tailings storage facility,” Yamana said.

Strategic phasing of the tailings storage facility design allows for the same footprint as previously planned, even with the increase in mineral reserves, the company clarified. Also, the progressive reclamation plan for this facility minimises the possibility of dust generation and expedites the return of the landscape to its natural state.

Rio and POSCO look to combine iron ore processing and steel-making technologies

Rio Tinto and POSCO, the largest steel producer in South Korea and one of the world’s leading steel producers, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore, develop and demonstrate technologies to transition to a low-carbon emission steel value chain.

The partnership will explore a range of technologies for decarbonisation across the entire steel value chain from iron ore mining to steelmaking, including integrating Rio Tinto’s iron ore processing technology and POSCO’s steel-making technology.

The MoU with POSCO underlines Rio Tinto’s commitment to working in partnerships with customers on steel decarbonisation pathways and to invest in technologies that could deliver reductions in steelmaking carbon intensity of at least 30% from 2030 or with potential to deliver carbon-neutral steelmaking pathways by 2050, the company said. Both Rio Tinto and POSCO share the ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it added.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios, said: “This partnership with POSCO, a valued and long-standing customer, demonstrates our combined commitment to working together to identify ways to reduce emissions across the steel-making process. The agreement also complements Rio Tinto‘s partnerships with other customers as the industry focusses on developing technologies that support the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

POSCO’s Head of Steel Business Unit, Hag-Dong Kim, said: “Tackling climate change is a critical item in achieving sustainable development for a better future. On the journey to achieving carbon neutrality with Rio Tinto, we can play an important role of finding a way to build a low-carbon steel industry”

vSMRs could solve decarbonisation challenges at Canada’s remote northern mines: study

Very small modular reactors (vSMRs) could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities in Canada, according to a recent study completed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO).

The feasibility study, looking into vSMRs ability to reduce or eliminate reliance on diesel, found that the most economical energy mix was for vSMRs to provide 90% of the baseload power required for mining operations and associated uses, with only peak demand periods managed through use of diesel generation, reducing emissions by 85%. Emissions could be lowered further by adding other renewables to the mix, decreasing the diesel component, at a slightly increased cost, it said.

SMRs are defined as producing up to 300 MW of power, while vSMRs produce up to 10 MW of power per module. These small modular reactors are more flexible than conventional reactors, better enabling them to work within a diverse energy grid alongside intermittent technologies such as solar or wind, according to the study partners. They can also be used for applications like process heat or hydrogen production, which help enable further industrial sector decarbonisation.

The technology is seen to have potential applications in Canada’s mining sector, where there are 10 off-grid operating mines. Most of these are served by diesel generators, which offer reliable, fast-acting, easy-to-vary output but are GHG-emitting.

Advantages of a vSMR, producing less than 10 MW, include:

  • Their small size, making them easier to transport and install in remote communities, and scalable to meet changing needs;
  • Their ability to safely, reliably produce power;
  • Long operating life without the need for an onsite inventory of fuel; and
  • Short installation period due to their modular construction and factory fabrication.

Global First Power, a joint venture between OPG and USNC-Power, is the most advanced vSMR project in Canada, according to the study. The project recently received Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approval to begin a technical review. Subject to federal government financial support, the next step in the process is to construct a demonstration vSMR at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

This demonstration project will serve as a model for future SMR deployments, as called for in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and Action Plan, by producing competitively priced clean energy ideally sized for remote communities and heavy industry such as mining and resource projects.

Robin Manley, Vice President of New Nuclear Development at OPG, said: “Nuclear power and SMRs play an enormous and critical role in meeting Canada’s climate change goals. This study demonstrates that not only can a vSMR dramatically reduce emissions in an industry that currently relies heavily on diesel, but it can do it in a cost-effective way.”

François Caron, Director of the Energy Center and Bruce Power Chair for Sustainable Energy Solutions, MIRARCO, Mining Innovation, added: “This study paves the way for the future of mining: not only does it show that vSMRs could provide a cost-effective and reliable energy source, it demonstrates that vSMRs are a long-term solution that can help diversify and intensify a mining operation while also providing a surplus that will benefit communities in the area.”

(Pictured is a cross section of the USNC-Power Micro Modular Reactor™ (MMR™) unit (CNW Group/Ontario Power Generation Inc))

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric partner on decarbonisation initiatives

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a “first-of-its-kind” collaboration to develop a circular and sustainable market ecosystem for both companies and their customers.

This multi-product partnership will see Schneider Electric use responsibly-sourced materials produced by Rio Tinto. These include low-carbon aluminium and copper produced with renewable power, iron ore and borates. Rio Tinto will, in turn, use energy and industrial services from Schneider Electric, as the companies work together to develop digital platforms, technologies and solutions to be deployed across the metals and mining supply chain to drive further decarbonisation, they said.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios, said: “This unique partnership will help accelerate decarbonisation and renewable energy solutions by combining low-carbon materials with cutting-edge digital technology. Working together will allow Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric to pursue opportunities beyond what is possible for either company on its own.

“This collaboration also opens doors to consider strategic initiatives such as expanding the use of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to reduce downtime in our plants, digitisation of our supply chains, and a host of other transformative technologies.”

Schneider Electric Executive Vice-President Industrial Automation, Barbara Frei, said: “We are excited to work with Rio Tinto to develop clean and pioneering solutions to meet industrial decarbonisation challenges. As the world’s most sustainable corporation and a manufacturer with a global network of smart factories and smart distribution centres, Schneider Electric is on a mission to make industries of the future eco-efficient, agile, and resilient through open, software-centric industrial automation and sustainable energy solutions. This new partnership demonstrates that Rio Tinto is as passionate as we are about bridging progress and sustainability for all.”

The partnership will draw on Schneider Electric’s Energy as a Service expertise to evaluate the use of innovative solutions, including microgrids, to supply energy from low-carbon sources, and artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to help meet sustainability goals at Rio Tinto sites and throughout its supply chain.

Rio Tinto’s START traceability and transparency initiative, the first sustainability label for aluminium using blockchain technology, will be deployed with Schneider Electric to unlock value for customers, suppliers and partners, it said. The companies will work to expand this transparency, offering START in combination with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ platform, an IoT system architecture that connects everything in an enterprise to deliver enhanced safety, reliability, efficiency and sustainability.

The companies will also partner to evaluate emerging innovation opportunities, such as the efficient production of critical materials for renewable technologies and advances in low-carbon, green steel manufacturing, both of which will play a significant long-term role in industrial decarbonisation.