World’s Biggest Miners Vow Net-Zero CO2 Emissions By 2050

LONDON, UK, October 7, 2021 (ENS) – Some of the world’s largest mining companies signed a pledge on Tuesday to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if not sooner. All are members of the London-based International Council on Mining and Metals, ICMM, which intends this collective commitment to “encourage our suppliers and customers to join us in decarbonizing our value chains while we support the decarbonization of the value chains of others.”

Mining adversely affects the environment by inducing loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and contamination of surface water, groundwater, and soil with leaking chemicals. This pledge does not really address those issues, only the emission of greenhouse gases that heat the atmosphere, raising the planetary temperature.

The Council’s CEO Rohitesh Dhawan said, “As the suppliers of the minerals and metals that are critical to decarbonisation and sustainable development, we have a particular responsibility to minimise the impact of our operations on the environment.”

“ICMM members’ collective commitment to net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is a pivotal moment in our history,” Dhawan said. “We are speaking with one voice, representing one-third of the global mining and metals industry – including more than 650 sites in over 50 countries – so that we drive emissions reduction at a significant scale.”

The Scope 1 Dhawan was talking about is the carbon generated by miners when they extract ore from the ground, and Scope 2 are emissions generated on site to process metals. Scope 3 emissions are generated by the end customer, such as refineries that process iron ore, nickel and metallurgical coal.

The ICMM member companies signed a pledge to “build clear pathways to achieving net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner, through meaningful short and/or medium-term targets.”

They also agreed to accelerate action on Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. “We will set Scope 3 targets, if not by the end of 2023, as soon as possible, the mining companies said.

“Although all Scope 3 action depends on the combined efforts of producers, suppliers and customers, some commodities face greater technological and collaborative barriers than others. We will play a leading role in overcoming these barriers and advancing partnerships that enable credible target setting and emission reductions across value chains,” they said.

ICMM’s 28 company members are: African Rainbow Minerals, Alcoa, Anglo American, AngloGold, Ashanti, Antofagasta Minerals, Barrick, BHP, Boliden, Codelco, Freeport-McMoRan, Glencore, Gold Fields, Hydro, JX Nippon Mining & Metals, Minera San Cristóbal, Minsur, Mitsubishi Materials, MMG, Newcrest, Newmont, Orano, Polyus, Rio Tinto, Sibanye Stillwater, South32, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Teck and Vale.

In addition, the ICMM includes more than 35 regional and commodities associations.

“Acting together,” their sign-on letter says, “we are seeking to accelerate the deployment of zero emission mining vehicles in our operations and the wider industry through the Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles initiative. And through our Skills for our Common Future initiative, we are helping to support people in our host communities to equip themselves with the means to thrive in a net zero economy,” the companies said.

On October 5, the same day that the pledge was signed, one of the signatory companies was celebrating sustainability in Australia. Newmont Corporation delivered the gold industry’s first autonomous haulage system fleet at Boddington, Western Australia’s largest gold mine.

Boddington gold mine in the state of Western Australia, 2009 (Photo by Calistemon courtesy Wikipedia)

Newmont announced last year an investment of US$150 million to install a new fleet of 231 t class Cat 793F autonomous trucks and convert a number of existing units as part of its planned Autonomous Haulage System at the mine, located 135 km southeast of Perth.

With the transition to a fully autonomous haulage fleet of 36 trucks, Boddington will be the world’s first open pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet.

“Newmont is proud to deliver the gold industry’s first autonomous haul truck fleet at Boddington, an important milestone for the company and the industry as a whole,” said Newmont President and CEO Tom Palmer.

Caterpillar, a U.S. company based in Illinois, is offering electric and autonomous mining equipment that can assist the ICMM member mining companies to fulfill their net-zero emissions pledges.

Caterpillar has embraced the vision of the all-electric underground mine of the future. At MINExpo 2021 in September, Caterpillar debuted its new Cat R1700 XE LHD. Factory-ready for autonomous operation, this mining machine features 100 percent battery electric propulsion and Cat MineStar Edge mine management technology.

Other ICMM member companies are also either already ahead of the curve or working to get there. From company headquarters in Toronto, Canada, Barrick President and CEO Mark Bristow said, “Barrick already has a clear, scientifically based emission reduction roadmap which targets a 30 percent cut by 2030 against our 2018 baseline and a net-zero outcome by 2050, in line with ICMM’s goal.”

Grant Beringer, Barrick’s group sustainability executive, said a series of carbon-reducing initiatives already is being implemented across Barrick’s global operations. At Nevada Gold Mines, the world’s largest gold-producing complex, which is operated and majority-owned by Barrick and minority-owned by Newmont, a new solar power plant is in the planning stages, and the TS power plant which serves the mine is being converted from coal to natural gas.

These projects will support Nevada Gold Mines’s transition from coal power to a dual energy solution that is expected to reduce the complex’s carbon emissions by half.

This entire effort comes just in time for the United Nation’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland in the first two weeks of November. There, countries, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, and whole economic sectors are making pledges to slash their greenhouse gas emissions – many to net zero by 2050.

After the mining companies had signed their pledge, Gonzalo Muñoz, High Level Climate Action Champion with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, said, “I welcome the leadership and joint ambition of ICMM members to commit to a goal of net-zero scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2050 or sooner, and I strongly encourage companies to set scope 3 GHG emissions reduction targets by the end of 2023.”

Muñoz said, “The High-Level Climate Action Champions encourage members to strive to set the most ambitious science-based targets possible in line with the criteria of the Race to Zero campaign.”

Featured image: A CAT 793 autonomous haul truck at Caterpillar’s Tinaja, Arizona, demonstration center. February 2020 (Photo courtesy Newmont)

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