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Mining stalwarts collaborate to decarbonise mine sites

Key players in the resource industry have joined forces to decarbonise mine sites in response to climate change and achieve the significant economic and social benefits of clean energy, large-scale storage and battery electric vehicles.

Fourteen companies, including South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields, Barminco and led by State of Play, have established the Electric Mine Consortium to help reduce their scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in line with global objectives.

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Electrification is a game changer for the mining industry as it allows the complete removal of diesel from mines, which aside from drastically cutting emissions, reduces exposure to volatile oil prices and eliminates the exposure of workforces to diesel particulates while allowing zero emissions mine sites.

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The CEOs of South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields Australia and Barminco have taken the unprecedented step of co-signing a statement of intent regarding the electrification of their mine sites with the goal of accelerating change in the industry.

These miners are supported by a highly ambitious group of suppliers, including global equipment leaders Epiroc and Sandvik – each with aggressive corporate CO2 emissions reductions commitments – software giant Dassault, utility Horizon Power, engineers Hahn Electrical, renewable energy company Energy Vault and new economy start-ups Safescape and 3ME Technologies.

Several consortium members compete in the rapidly growing battery minerals markets in which major end-customers such as BMW and Tesla have made clear statements of intent regarding the carbon content of their supply chains, of which mining is a key element.

Matt Dusci, IGO Chief Operating Officer said, “IGO’s strategy is focused on discovering and producing metals critical to a clean energy future. Throughout our business, we aspire to be proactively green and have a strong commitment to reducing the impact our activities have on the environment, our people and our communities.”

State of Play co-founder, Graeme Stanway, says while the industry as a whole understands these benefits, when it comes to individually implementing them as an organisation, cost becomes a key hurdle.

“Our data shows renewables, all electric systems and batteries will help fuel the change towards a healthier, economically viable future of mining, but uncertainty remains when it comes to which area to invest in first, and how.”

According to a recent survey of global mining executives undertaken by research group State of Play, 87% believe that all existing mine sites will become fully electric within 20 years and 60% believe the next generation of greenfield mines will be fully electric.

Andrew Cole, CEO of OZ Minerals, said, “we have a strategic aspiration to emit zero scope 1 emissions and systemically reduce scope 2 & 3 emissions across our value chain. We are committed to investigating various technologies and strategies, such as the electrification of mining equipment, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at our assets.”

Electrification of mine sites is a key technical foundation for the automation of equipment, which itself provides a large step forward in productivity and safety, while also improving economics through simplified, interoperable electric-drive equipment.

The CEOs collectively agree that the industry should focus more on collaboration to overcome cost barriers and uncertainty in technology choices that may be beyond the capacity of individual companies alone.

Dusci continued, “we are proud to support and be part of the Electric Mine Consortium and look forward to working collaboratively with our peers toward the decarbonisation of our industry.”

“Solving complex challenges, innovating, and achieving sustainable value creation will require us to harness the best minds from both inside and outside the mining industry to help us connect dots in new and exciting ways” said Cole.

Australian mining companies have a huge advantage compared to their global counterparts when it comes to alternative energy sources.

Stanway continued, “Here in Australia, we have an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in our most remote operations. Local mine sites have the opportunity to install solar, wind and battery energy storage systems to power their operations at a much cheaper cost than many global players.”

Robert Piconi, CEO and co-founder of Energy Vault believes, “minimising CO2 and diesel particulates through innovative technology choices, such as energy storage, is essential to the Electric Mine Consortium as it pursues the goal of fully electric mines and we’re pleased to become a founding member of the organisation.

“Our unique, long duration storage technology is especially well suited for use in mines given that it provides the opportunity for the beneficial re-use of waste tailing materials as well as other localised materials, avoiding cost disposal and environmental hazard.

“Importantly, Energy Vault’s solution also economically deals with severe weather environments, in particular high ambient temperature climates, with an unprecedented, low operating cost sustainably.”

CEO of Geovia Dassault, Michelle Ash added, “For the country to fully realise the opportunity of zero emissions mines we also need to be able to effectively test and implement new technologies.

“To do this rapidly we need to be able to model and simulate them in the virtual world so we can then de-risk in the real world. We need to modernise our regulatory framework and consider what skills our sector will need across the entire workforce, from trades, technicians and university graduates, through to our scientists and PhD’s”.

The founding consortium companies are: 3ME Technologies, Barminco, Dassault, Epiroc, Energy Vault, Gold Fields, Hahn Electrical, Horizon Energy, IGO, OZ Minerals, Safescape, Sandvik, South32 and State of Play.