14 companies – including majors South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields and Barminco – led by research group, State of Play, have established the Electric Mine Consortium to help reduce their scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in line with global objectives.
Electrification has the potential to transform the mining industry as it allows for 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.
Last Tuesday, the CEOs of South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields Australia and Barminco took 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 were 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 have made clear statements of intent regarding the carbon content of their supply chains, of which mining is a key element.
Chief Operating Officer of IGO, Matt Dusci, said the company’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,” Mr Dusci said.
State of Play co-founder, Graeme Stanway, said 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,” he shared.
According to a recent survey of global mining executives undertaken by State of Play, 87 per cent believe that all existing mine sites will become fully electric within 20 years and 60 per cent believe the next generation of greenfield mines will be fully electric.
CEO of OZ Minerals, Andrew Cole, said OZ Minerals has a strategic aspiration to emit zero scope 1 emissions and systemically reduce scope 2 and 3 emissions across their 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,” Mr Cole commented.
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.
Mr 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,” added Mr Cole.
Australian mining companies have a significant advantage compared to their global counterparts when it comes to alternative energy sources. Mr Stanway said Australia has an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in the 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,” he said.
CEO and co-founder of Energy Vault, Robert Piconi, stated: “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.”
CEO of Geovia Dassault, Michelle Ash, further commented: “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.”
Benefits of mine electrification, according to State of Play:
Operational cost savings:
7-15 per cent reduction in OPEX, comprised of:
- 30-50 per cent energy cost reduction
- 25 per cent maintenance cost reduction
- 40 per cent ventilation cost reduction
100 per cent reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions
26 per cent reduction in all emissions
Removes diesel particulate exposure:
Each year 1.2 million Australians are exposed to diesel particulates