The mining industry, a significant contributor to global CO2 emissions, is embracing the challenge of reducing its environmental footprint, says Synergy Consulting
As stakeholders increasingly prioritise emissions reduction, mining companies are exploring innovative strategies to achieve carbon-neutral operations. This article delves into the journey towards a net-zero future for mining, highlighting the importance of renewable energy, circular economies, and sustainable fuel alternatives.
Tackling carbon emissions in mining
The mining sector currently accounts for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, primarily stemming from diesel usage, non-renewable electricity generation, and transport emissions. To address this, companies are adopting various measures. Diesel equipment alone contributes to 40-50% of mining CO2 emissions, underscoring the need for alternatives. Switching to green electricity sources can reduce emissions by 30-50% and enable the electrification of mining facilities.
While options like green purchasing and renewable energy installations exist, achieving complete carbon neutrality requires significant drivetrain changes. Battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells are being explored as promising long-term alternatives.
The role of circular economies
Transitioning to a circular economy, where raw materials are repurposed and waste is minimised, is crucial for achieving net-zero emissions in mining.
As the demand for certain mining commodities increases, even as fossil fuel demand declines, companies must balance their environmental impact. By repurposing materials and implementing sustainable practices throughout the mining lifecycle, companies can contribute to the circular economy and reduce their carbon footprint.
Addressing energy challenges in southern Africa
The mining industry in South and southern Africa faces a unique challenge concerning energy access, with intermittent power supply hindering continuous mining operations.
In light of the electricity crisis, mining companies must take short-, medium-, and long-term steps towards decarbonisation. These steps include improving operational efficiency, investing in green energy sources, and utilising sustainable fuels in the short term. For the long term, solutions such as hydrogen, battery electric vehicles, and synthetic fuel production show promise.
Overcoming bankability issues and streamlining municipal network PPAs
To accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources, mining companies often enter into Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with municipal networks. However, bankability issues related to electricity offtake obligations, changes in law and tax responsibilities, termination terms, and payment security can hinder progress.
To streamline the process, regulatory bodies should simplify licensing requirements, while financing options provided by development finance institutions (DFIs) or commercial banks can support new projects. Tailored technical solutions, such as off-grid generation through solar, wind, or battery power, should be implemented for effective energy management.
Mining companies are stepping up their efforts to achieve a net-zero future by reducing carbon emissions and embracing sustainable practices. Through the adoption of renewable energy sources, circular economies, and innovative technologies, these companies are setting a new trajectory for the industry. Collaborative efforts between stakeholders, regulatory support, and financial incentives will be crucial in propelling mining toward a sustainable and carbon-neutral future.
This article is authored by Synergy Consulting IFA. For more information, reach out to: