Tag Archives: net zero mining

Zenith Energy to roll out 5B Maverick solar system across Australian mine sites

Renewable energy penetration is set to increase on major mine sites in the Goldfields and Pilbara regions of Australia, after Zenith Energy and 5B signed a deployment agreement that could see the 5B Maverick™ system rolled out.

Zenith, one of Australia’s leading independent power producers, and 5B, a clean energy technology provider, signed an Ecosystem Framework Agreement-Deployment, permitting Zenith to be a deployment partner of the 5B Maverick system within Australia.

The 5B Maverick system solar array is prefabricated, allowing rapid deployment while increasing the ability of Zenith to expand renewable assets across existing and future sites, Zenith said. Each 5B Maverick array consists of up to 90 solar panels, mounted on specially designed racks, and optimised for the 540-550 W module class of the utility scale solar industry.

Zenith Managing Director, Hamish Moffat, said the partnership represents the next step in reducing emissions across Zenith’s legacy portfolio.

“We’ve been looking to increase renewable assets across multiple sites for some time; the question has always been around how we can achieve that in such a way that is economically viable,” he said. “The 5B Maverick system is re-deployable, meaning it can be integrated on mines with shorter tenure, and moved at the end of operations at those sites.”

He added: “It offers Zenith greater ability to leverage value from our initial capital expenditure, making it more cost effective to offer expanded renewable energy solutions for our clients.”

5B Co-Founder and CEO, Chris McGrath, said the strategic partnership is an important validation of 5B Maverick’s ability to reduce deployment complexity.

“This has been a major barrier for solar installations on mine sites worldwide,” he said. “The agreement also shows that our cost reduction efforts over the past two years have worked – we’ve hit the price point where 5B Mavericks can be viably packed up and redeployed elsewhere, substantially reducing the risk of stranded assets in mining, agricultural and industrial operations.”

Moffat said Zenith is looking to integrate the 5B Maverick system across three sites initially. These include:

  • Nova: The 5B Maverick will play a major role in Zenith’s industry first ‘engine-off’ project at IGO’s Nova nickel mine, allowing the site to operate on up to nine consecutive hours of renewable energy through the installation of an extra 10 MW of solar, and a 10 MW battery energy storage system;
  • Warrawoona: Zenith recently committed to the supply, installation, and commissioning of a 4 MW DC Solar Farm, using the 5B Maverick, as well as a 3 MW/3 MWh AC battery energy storage system at Warrawoona, owned by Calidus Resources. The hybrid power station configuration will reduce gas use, which in turn results in a reduction in emissions; and
  • King of The Hills: Work is currently underway to install 2 MW of 5B Maverick on the Red 5 site, also supported by a battery energy storage system.

Moffat said the 5B agreement is another key milestone on the company’s journey toward ‘net zero’.

“Our 2035 ‘net zero’ target strikes a balance between ambition and ability to achieve, with the 5B partnership a clear demonstration of our progress and commitment to this goal,” he said.

McGrath said 5B was keen to partner with Zenith, given the independent power producer’s strong reputation and credibility in providing renewable energy solutions to the mining and resources industry.

“We’re keen to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with like-minded companies, and Zenith definitely fits the bill,” he said. “It is great to see Zenith leveraging the ability of the 5B Maverick solar arrays to deploy up to 10 times faster, more safely than single axis tracker and fixed tilt solar systems, to deliver a full solution for their customers.”

Moffat said the partnership offers both Zenith and 5B the opportunity to continue to lead the industry, demonstrating the ability and capacity to effectively integrate renewable energy solutions.

“We have continually said we want to be part of the renewable solution, not just by developing the concepts needed, but by also actively deploying and proving the technology,” he said. “The partnership with 5B allows us to do this and continue to bring our clients on the glide path to ‘net zero’.”

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)

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.