energy and power

Rising global demand for net zero practices in the mining industry

Industrial tyre manufacturer Balkrishna Industries Ltd. (BKT) looks at how the mining industry can be decarbonised

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Electrically-driven vehicles are a way to reduce fuel consumption. (Image source: BKT)

The fourth and last episode of BKT’s digital talk show, where prominent guests deal with the most current topics in the OTR industry, concluded with the topic of mining. The episode looked at decarbonisation and the achievement of net zero goals in the mining sector.

The guest of this last episode were: Thomas Koch Blank, senior principal of the climate aligned industries programme at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a project dedicated to developing and supporting innovative technologies for sustainable transitions; Alexander Allen, director of mining at Nth Cycle, a US technology company developing a sustainable solution for recycling metals from electronic waste (e-waste); and Bruno Santos, BKT’s field engineer for the OTR sector, responsible for southwest Europe.

Mining and mineral extraction are vital within the modern global economy, which is growing both in terms of population and wealth. According to Blank, the increased need for materials and infrastructures is jumping especially in developing economies. Yet, sustainable solutions are at hand. “Decarbonisation of the mining industry can be achieved through recycling, which is the cheapest way to reduce the sector´s overall energy consumption. The emissions associated with mining activities stem from the energy employed to transform raw materials, and recycling avoids this part of the process,” he said.

Blank also explained existing technological solutions to reduce or eliminate the use of carbon by means of the electrification of operations, even if there might be some problems in mines that are not connected to the power grid or having means and equipment unsuitable for direct electrification. Although the goal of net zero still seems to be distant, the big underground mines are today almost entirely electrified, in terms of ventilation and transportation systems. So, hydrogen becomes very important.

“Since mining communities generally operate in remote locations, it is possible to use hydrogen for trucks. You can also use it to process iron ore or titanium. What is more, by generating hydrogen, you obtain by-products, such as excess water and electricity, which can supply the local community and help mining companies obtain the permission to operate,” Blank added.

Allen said, “Our start-up can replace current refining technology, which includes large, capital-intensive, carbon-intensive processes such as pyrometallurgy, in which metals are basically melted down, or it can replace hydrometallurgical operations using large amounts of chemicals in a relatively slow process. All this can also be applied to a smaller, modular scale to refine metals at the source, in particular on mining sites or scrap yards.”

Santos, concluded, “From our viewpoint as a tyre manufacturer, the OEM initiatives have a major impact: one can choose a larger fleet, which generally turns into less downtime and more productivity, and this is definitely what all mining companies aim at. As an alternative, one can opt for electrically-driven vehicles, which is a way to reduce fuel consumption.”

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