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 Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields, Barminco and led by the 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 is a game-changer for the mining industry as it drastically reduces emissions and exposure to diesel particulates underground while bringing mine sites closer to achieving their zero-emissions objectives.
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 Sandvik and Epiroc – each with aggressive corporate CO2 emissions reductions commitments – software giant Dassault, utility Horizon Energy, engineers Hahn Electrical, renewable energy company Energy Vault, and new economy start-ups Safescape and 3ME Technologies.
Sandvik is a leader in battery electric vehicles for mining, with electrification and zero-entry mining initiatives key to the company’s strategy for reducing carbon emissions and introducing technology for safer underground operations. Sandvik’s Sustainable Business, Marketing and Communications Manager, Kate Bills said:
“Sandvik is committed to using engineering and innovation to advance the world towards more sustainable business. We are convinced that we can make the best contribution to a sustainable future by working together with our customers and suppliers to provide more efficient, safer and environmentally-sound solutions. Joining the new Electric Mine Consortium and leading the electrification and automation transition in mining are some of the many ways we will achieve our 2030 sustainability ambitions.”
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.
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 organization, 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.
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. Andrew Cole, CEO of Oz Minerals, said:
“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.”
Australian mining companies have a huge advantage compared to their global counterparts when it comes to alternative energy sources. Stanway said:
“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.”
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”.