Business Maverick


Global mining sector’s net zero emissions target is feasible, says leading industry body

Global mining sector’s net zero emissions target is feasible, says leading industry body
Photovoltaic panels in the Khanyisa solar plant at the Gold Fields Ltd. South Deep gold mine in Westonaria, South Africa, on 12 October 2022. (Photo: Michele Spatari / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Mine workers operate drilling machinery in Westonaria, South Africa, on 12 October 2022. (Photo: Michele Spatari / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The global mining industry is on track to meet its emission reduction target and big trucks will pave the way, according to the International Council on Mining and Metals.

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which has 26 member companies worldwide that account for a third of global mining output, says that the industry’s zero emissions target is feasible.

“All ICMM member companies will achieve net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050… each company is taking steps to reduce their emissions,” ICMM CEO Rohitesh Dhawan told Business Maverick in an interview at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from assets owned by an organisation, while Scope 2 emissions are linked to the purchase of power, heating and such things. GHG emissions are one of the driving forces of human-induced climate change.  

There is a lot of scepticism about such proclamations from a power-intensive industry that historically has had a woeful environmental record. But the climate crisis has triggered public and investor pressure on the industry to clean up its act, and it is often at the cutting edge of the technical innovation that decarbonisation efforts require.

And many of the “green metals” needed for the looming energy transition can only be produced by the mining industry so, love or hate it, it needs to be a player on this front. 

To wit, Dhawan said that the global mining energy has renewable energy projects in the pipeline to the tune of 18.5GW which will be up and running by 2025.  

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

“It’s about the same capacity as the entire grid of Colombia,” he said.  

Still, reaching the targets will be challenging. Mining trucks are a prime example which also shows how inventive solutions can be reached through old-fashioned economics.

“Net zero by 2050 is achievable and we can see a pathway with Scope 2 that is very clear. Scope 1 is harder because the majority of Scope 1 emissions are diesel. And there are 28,000 mining trucks globally and the vast majority of them are diesel and they carry payloads up to 500 tonnes,” Dhawan said.  

“What we found was happening in 2017 was that the manufacturers of trucks were telling us that if mining companies would buy zero-emission vehicles, they would put effort and energy into producing them. And mining companies were saying that if they were available, we would buy them. There was this chicken and egg situation… so we got them together,” he said.

At the time, it was estimated they would only have zero-emission trucks on a commercial scale by 2040. This would have made the 2050 target impossible because such fleets can hardly be replaced overnight.

But Dhawan said the “strong demand signal” from the mining industry had seen such efforts shift into high gear, with 13 years shaved off the timeline.

“By 2027, we should have zero-emission vehicles available at scale,” he said.  

Ready-made examples include Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) monster hydrogen truck

Read more in Daily Maverick: “A hydrogen monster truck at an Anglo American Platinum mine heralds a future with zero emissions

“Amplats charged ahead on their own… but Anglo doesn’t want to be a truck manufacturer. They did it to show that it can be done,” Dhawan said.

The industry has made big commitments and it will be monitored closely on this front. But some of the signs are promising. DM/BM/OBP

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted