Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mining for Emissions Reductions:  Strike while the Earth Is Cool

Natural gas fueled electricity generating power plant near Hermiston Oregon. (Photo Credit: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Companies involved in natural resource extraction and refinement are uniquely positioned to both benefit and suffer from society’s response to climate change.  On the one hand, global demand for many metals and minerals is increasing as developing nations rapidly modernize, the global population continues to grow, and certain industries, such as electric vehicles, batteries, and solar photovoltaics (PV), gain momentum.  Mining companies will play a critical role in the energy transition, providing the raw materials needed to grow these nascent industries.  Metals that will likely be needed for the low-carbon transition include copper, silver, aluminum (bauxite), nickel, zinc, neodymium, and indium.

On the other hand, mining companies are vulnerable to both societal pressure and policy changes.  All such companies have a lot of work to do if they are to put themselves on a decarbonization pathway in line with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.  A recent report by CDP shows that in 2015, half of worldwide industrial greenhouse gas emissions could be traced back to just 50 companies (called carbon majors) working in heavy fossil fuel industries (the report examined scope 1 and 3 emissions).  Mining companies, particularly those involved in coal extraction, ranked high on the list, taking two of the top five spots, and 20 spots overall.  In fact, even three International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) member companies—the “crème de la crème” when it comes to sustainability efforts in the industry—made the list.  Therefore, meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement will require these companies to significantly reduce the amount of CO2 they release and, in some cases, the types of resources they extract.  To date, technology has provided the mining industry with incremental efficiency gains, but dramatic additional emissions reductions will be required if they are to meet both regulatory mandates and societal pressures.

Read more at Mining for Emissions Reductions:  Strike while the Earth Is Cool

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