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How will miners decarbonise their energy sources? - Mining Weekly

Saturday, 15 February 2020

In its seventh year, the 2019 Energy and Mines World Congress marked a "historic shift in conversations about energy in mining", says Energy and Mines director Adrienne Baker.

"The spotlight was not on whether miners would develop strategies to decarbonise their energy sources. These processes are a given. The focus is now on how they will achieve this, and this debate is reaching an unprecedented level of granularity and depth," she adds.

The event, which took place from December 2 to 4 in Toronto, Canada, capped what Baker describes as a "record year" for renewable energy in mining, noting more than 4 500 project announcements in 2019 — four times the previous record of about 900 announcements in 2018.

Baker attributes this fourfold rise to ongoing cost reductions for renewables and increased pressure from key stakeholders for mining to decarbonise.

A total of 367 delegates attended the congress in 2019. Its aim was to connect senior mining energy decision-makers with global renewable-energy and low-carbon solution providers to discuss projects and solutions for affordable, reliable and low-carbon energy for mines.

Baker believes that this mandate has been achieved, as the event has established itself as the yearly meeting place for mining and energy experts.

Further, she states that simply integrating a small amount of renewable energy to replace diesel and gas will not be enough to prepare the resources sector for the growing demand of low-carbon products and materials.

"With this in mind, mining companies are now focusing on getting to higher-penetration renewable energy and storage, as well as identifying pathways to further decarbonise mine sites and supply chains. This includes electrification, hydrogen integration and minerals processing initiatives," she tells Mining Weekly.

Baker notes at last year’s congress that there was transformation regarding energy in mining.

"This is being driven by rising and volatile energy costs, increased power security concerns, shareholder and regulatory pressure, the falling cost of alternative energy and the tie between sustainable energy and social licence to operate," she states.

She observes that several early movers presented their latest projects at the 2019 conference, including gold mining company B2Gold’s Fekola solar-hybrid plant, which is scheduled to be completed in August.

Meanwhile, gold company Newmont Goldcorp showcased its fully electrified underground mine fleet at its Borden gold mine, in Chapleau, Ontario, which has allowed for a safer and more pleasant environment for workers while reducing ventilation costs.

Mining company Nouveau Monde Graphite is building the world’s first zero-emission openpit mine in Quebec, with operations scheduled to begin in 2022, while diversified miner Teck Resources has focused on electrifying its mobile equipment, which is responsible for 39% of its carbon emissions.

Moreover, gold mining company Gold Fields CEO and keynote speaker Nick Holland committed to reducing emissions by 800 000 t from 2017 to 2020 – equivalent to 60% of its 2018 Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

The last day of the 2019 congress focused exclusively on the decarbonising material movement, with original-equipment manufacturers presenting the latest innovations, and miners exposing the challenges they have yet to overcome.

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