Miners need to make significant changes to their plans if they want to meet the energy transition goals while still providing essential minerals.
FREMONT, CA: Mining has a pivotal role in switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. From lithium-ion batteries to solar cells, the majority of green technologies require the use of specific metals and minerals.
Mineral production, including graphite, lithium, and cobalt, is expected to increase by almost 500 percent by 2050.
As the production and usage of these metals and minerals increase, so will the significance of a circular supply chain, as most renewable and low-carbon technologies utilize recoverable metals. This allows for the recycling and repurposing technology such as electric vehicles (EV) once they have reached the end of their useful life.
The decarbonization of the mine site is also crucial. There will be a boost in deploying disruptive technologies like electric vehicles, renewable energy, and AI systems.
As part of the transformation, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ideals must become more ingrained in the code of conduct of mining firms. Mines should aim to minimize the negative impacts that their operations have on the environment and society. This will alleviate investor and consumer pressure on the supply chain and promote a more holistic and mutually beneficial production system.
Technological innovation has played a crucial role in all phases of mining projects. In recent years, increased expenditures on disruptive technology have allowed the mining industry to finally catch up to a trend that has already advanced in numerous other industries. Big data, automated machinery, electric vehicles, digital twins, water management and tailings recovery technologies, and renewable energy sources have been favored and implemented on global mining sites.
Mine site emissions are an essential problem for miners in the near future. Consistently, the solution is electrification. Removing 6.1 billion liters of diesel per year from copper mines (equal to 105kbd or 0.1 percent of global oil demand) would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately a quarter.
Electrification enhances efficiency, reduces ventilation needs, and eliminates exhaust gases, benefitting underground workers and reducing ventilation needs.
Power mining operations will also need to incorporate renewable energy sources. For instance, the Chilean mining industry has previously proved the importance of renewables in mine site operations. The majority of mineral reserves in Chile are located in the remote Atacama area, which has the highest solar incidence.
Combined with efficient energy storage, it might be a game-changer for renewable integration, offsetting a significant portion of the requirement for base load electricity. The miner will also benefit from smoothing the intermittent nature of renewable resources, reducing peak demand, enhancing dependability, and providing backup power.