In the last 100 years, energy consumption by the mining industry has rocketed. To use copper as an example, Anglo American reports that producing a pound of copper today requires 16 times more energy than it did 100 years ago.
Against that background, the mining industry has no excuse but to lead the new way without any delay. The route to be taken is to produce big volumes of renewable electricity from the sun and wind and ensure there is excess for green hydrogen production. That green hydrogen must then be deployed to replace diesel. This must set the benchmark for the whole of South Africa, which must be incentivised to pursue it without delay. Sun and wind are fortunately ubiquitous and available in abundance in these parts.
Mines have enough water to produce green hydrogen, with additional desalinated drinking water as a bonus, and the world is funding decarbonisation fast and furiously, so there will not be an absence of private- and public-sector funding to do all this. South Africa must be made to understand that mining is the key player in supporting the energy transition, and today’s mining must be incentivised to produce crop nutrients on organic low-carbon footprints to at least double agricultural productivity to free up enough land for carbon sinks.