Diversified major Anglo American continues to take steps to usher in hydrogen-powered machinery, as well as to roll out renewable energy at its global operations as a means of improving its sustainability, CE Mark Cutifani said during a Financial Times Mining Summit on October 7.
He pointed out that the group would fully integrate renewable energy into all its South American operations by the end of 2022. “And we would hope that we achieved the same outcome in South Africa by the end of 2030 with our new strategies.”
Cutifani added that the group’s approach to hydrogen was to incrementally replace diesel-powered machinery. That is backed up with using and continuing to roll out renewable energy solutions to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We will have the new hydrogen truck in South Africa, landing for construction at the end of the year. It will be operating early [in 2022],” he noted.
In terms of Anglo’s approach to lowering its carbon footprint, Cutifani said the company foresees a transition, but added that those types of things “do not happen with a big bang” and that there were multiple steps that needed to be taken.
“For example, we have put a strategy to the South African government regarding wind farms on the east and west coast, solar energy in the Northern Cape,” he said.
In addition, Cutifani noted that Anglo was considering using deep, flooded underground mines as a “battery”, providing a means to pump water up and let it run back down mine shafts as a “fully integrated system that will work with Eskom”.
In terms of current and future so-called “critical minerals”, he said that, because mines and their resources were finite, coupled with a lack of adequate exploration to find new resources, a significant problem was on the horizon.
“It used to take seven years from discovery to development, to bring a project on line in the mining industry. The average time taken today is 15 years. So we are not sleep walking into a problem, we are running head-long, screaming, ignoring the obvious,” asserted Cutifani.
In this regard, he said, the world was already short of copper, nickel and platinum group metals, the latter being a challenge particularly as the hydrogen and the broader green economies picked up momentum and more so post-2030.
“All of these products are going to require serious investment and a different relationship and conversation with all parts of society to make sure we get this right. People forget [that] we drive, as an industry, 45% of the world’s economy, yet we take up less than half a percent of the Earth’s liveable and arable land,” he noted.
This led him to point out that Africa still held “tremendous opportunity” with its holding of 40% of the world’s natural resources. Cutifani said Africa was and will remain, part of Anglo’s home base, and was reinforced by learnings from operating in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the northern parts of Africa.
Nonetheless, going forward, he said the way in which miners connected with local communities, and the ways in which they made a difference to peoples’ lives, “in a positive way”, was “the key to being successful in Africa, as it is in any jurisdiction”.
Meanwhile, Cutifani also said steel was “absolutely critical” in decarbonisation, and that once renewable energy got to about 35% to 40% of primary energy generation, steel would be “technically, even with metallurgical coal, carbon neutral because of the credits it gets for being in the renewables space”.
“In our view, iron-ore is the most important element that goes into steel. The good news, and how we have positioned in iron-ore, is to have high-quality iron-ore that [results in the production of between] 20% to 30% less Scope 3 emissions because of that quality going into steel,” he said.
Such high-quality, and inherently low emissions steel, would be a “very important competitive advantage” that has not been fully priced in Anglo’s products, said Cutifani.