Carbon Neutrality in Mining
The major steps being used to achieve carbon neutrality in the mining industry include using new energy sources, carbon optimization, adapting digital technologies, measuring OEE, and implementing efficiency measures and increasing the mining of copper for renewable energy.
New Energy Sources
- Only 2.5% of the mining sector's electricity currently comes from renewable energy.
- Debeer's has announced its goal of carbon neutrality in five years. They expect to leverage different technology choices for renewable electricity generation, which are proliferating, or through clean alternative fuels such as hydrogen.
- Renewable technologies — mostly solar, but also wind and water where topography permits — are being used as a replacement for fossil fuels such as diesel.
- New power sources would affect the facilities management staff who would have to manage the latest technology, but it should be transparent to the rest of the employees. [Analysis]
Carbon Optimization — Kimberlite
- De Beers Group has recently been awarded a C$675,000 grant from the Canadian government's Clean Growth Program for pioneering research on delivering carbon-neutral diamond mining.
- Laboratory experiments have proven the science of storing "large volumes of carbon in processed kimberlite through mineral carbonation."
- Debeer is supporting wider mining applications and has stated that "there is great potential to achieve carbon-neutral mining operations at sites where this type of rock is present. This award will help accelerate this innovative work that could fundamentally change the carbon footprint of not only the diamond industry but the mining sector more broadly."
- The process involves the injection of carbon dioxide in kimberlite rock that has been processed so that it sequesters the carbon dioxide as a stable carbonate mineral.
- Until a cost-effective process is defined, it is impossible to be sure of the impact on employees. However, logic says it could be a whole new group of employees being trained to work with the kimberlite carbon neutralization process.
- Deloitte has reported on recent innovations in digital mining technology.
- These include 3D mapping that decreases the need for land travel.
- Drone exploration is being used to minimize emissions at the beginning of exploration projects.
- Goldcorp is now using "solar battery-powered underground vehicles and drilling/blasting equipment, as well as digital and smart technology." The company has successfully eliminated the equivalent of 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
- Implementing these new 3D mapping and drone technology would require training staff on the latest technology. [analysis].
Implementing Efficiency Measures
- The term "Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)" originates with the manufacturing industry. As a metric for efficiency, it transfers easily to the mining industry. Measuring OEE is increasingly becoming the best practice in underground mining. It is used to identify losses, benchmark progress, and eliminate waste, including CO2, from the process.
- Newtrax has created a graphic, shown here, to demonstrate the steps and savings potential.
- In a recent case study, the company installed tracking devices on four trucks to measure efficiency.
- After collecting data for eight weeks, the following metrics were uncovered: availability time was 93%, utilization time was 52%, and Haulage efficiency was 64%.
- These metrics translated to an OEE of 31%.
- As a result, the company increased dumper bed wall height to accommodate extra buckets, added digital scoreboards on the trucks' cab for LHD, and installed an alarm system on each truck to provide a warning in the case of overloading.
- None of these required significant changes in the employee process.
- Copper is required for electric vehicles and for renewable power generation.
- The mining company Tek recently completed a long-term purchase agreement with its new copper mining project in Chile.
- The goal is to have half of its operating power needs being met with renewable energy.
- Kennecott Utah, Chilean copper mining company Antofagasta, and Aggreko's Bisha mine in Eritrea owned by Chinese mining group Zijin are all moving to copper usage.
- The use of renewable power should have minimal effect on mining employees. [analysis]