The drive for clean energy technologies that are required to achieve climate goals will increase demand for critical minerals, putting the mining and metals industry at the forefront of the energy transition.
However, this necessitates that materials be responsibly sourced and produced, said leadership organisation International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).
ICMM innovation and climate change manager Verónica Martinez discussed during a November 9 Energy and Mines World Congress 2021 presentation the organisation’s approach to net-zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.
The ICMM has 28 mining and metals company members and 35 commodities association members across the world and sets responsible mining principles for members to adhere to.
Martinez said the decarbonisation of the mining and metals industry has, for a number of years, been recognised as a major disrupter, with various debates on its risks and opportunities ongoing.
Environmental and social, followed by decarbonisation, topped the 2022 top ten business risks and opportunities for mining and metals companies, according to a yearly survey conducted by consultancy EY.
To this end, the ICMM’s climate change programme is focused on mitigation – how the industry reduces emissions along its value chain; adaptation – how the industry builds short and long-term operational and business resilience; and disclosure – how the industry provides climate-related information transparently and in a standardised way.
Martinez noted that the ICMM is building clear pathways to achieving net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050 through meaningful short and medium-term targets; however, the organisation acknowledged that, for some operations, intensity rather than absolute targets may be more appropriate in the short and medium term.
The ICMM aimed to set Scope 3 emission reduction targets at the latest by the end of 2023 and the organisation would play a meaningful role in overcoming barriers and advancing partnerships with suppliers and customers to enable emission reductions across value chains.
To mitigate emissions, Martinez deemed it necessary to first understand where emissions are coming from, which varies according to the commodity mined, owing to different energy levels required for processing.
In the metals and mining industry, Scope 1 emissions mostly stem from fuel consumption in separation and material movement processes, Scope 2 emissions mainly relate to electricity to power operations. Martinez said Scope 1 emissions account for about 60% of ICMM members’ emissions, with Scope 2 accounting for the balance.
She added that Scope 3 emissions occur along the value chain and what happens with the material further, and are therefore more intense for commodities such as coal and iron-ore, and less so for gold, for example.
Many ICMM members have already committed to supporting emissions reductions in maritime transportation by perusing low carbon chartering choices and promoting technology to optimise voyages, and promoting innovations for emissions-free surface mining vehicles.
Almost 50% of emissions from mine sites are linked to the mining fleet.
Mining companies are also increasingly engaging with downstream stakeholders to support the development of technologies capable of reducing emissions in the production of steel and aluminium.
The ICMM advocates for its stakeholders to support circular economy principles, for example by keeping materials in service for longer and avoiding unnecessary use of minerals and metals, and also urges members to pursue renewable energy builds on site or renewable energy power purchases.
Martinez confirmed that ICMM members are all assessing local conditions and opportunities suitable for them to decarbonise, for example, some countries have more viable resources to pursue renewable energy builds than others.
In terms of challenges, she explained that the ICCM was seeing the need for suitable business models for sites that have life of mines spanning less than 50 years, since these sites may not be able to access traditional power purchase agreements, which require long timeframes.
“We see a gap here and we are willing to work with suppliers to come up with solutions for our members.”
When asked whether the ICMM believed there was potential for hydrogen to drive decarbonisation, Martinez said the ICMM is technology-agnostic and its suggested decarbonisation pathways would consider what works in different jurisdictions.
“No one technology is a silver bullet. We focus not on specific solutions, but creating enabling environments for solutions that are best suited for a specific site.”