Achieving Net Zero in Mining – How CMIC Is Providing the Roadmap

Mining companies across the globe have committed to meeting a goal of net zero by 2050 or sooner. This goal encompasses both scope one emissions (emanating from sources owned by an organization, such as furnaces, boilers, vehicles, etc.) and scope two emissions (produced in the production of electricity purchased by an organization).

This goal of net zero is essential to the future of mining, and the industry’s leaders are already in the process of developing strategies and plans. But we’re not there yet; there are some fundamental gaps that must be addressed before net zero can be achieved. In this post we will discuss those goals and the role that CMIC is playing in accelerating the progress.

CMIC’s stated goal of moving mining toward a zero waste industry is inextricably linked to the goal of decarbonization and net zero. At the highest level we have defined a zero waste strategy to address energy, water and environmental footprint in the mining industry. By focusing on those objectives, we end up tackling the very business and technology platforms that contribute to GHG emissions, but in a more integrated and holistic fashion.

The technology gap

Many of the technologies required to meet the goal of net zero do not currently exist. For instance, the process of comminution currently accounts for about 50 per cent of a mine’s energy consumption. Similarly, the diesel emissions generated by haulage trucks is a major concern for mining companies.

The CMIC approach to these and other challenges is to start by developing technology roadmaps that align the industry on common challenges and also help create a paradigm shift in terms of what is possible. At the tactical level, CMIC creates teams, or consortia, of mining companies and suppliers to co-develop new technology and also co-develop the implementation of new technology.

Take, for example, the Underground Mining Mechanical Cutting project, which was designed to address the safety, productivity and cost issues surrounding traditional drill and blast mining processes. CMIC assembled a consortium of experts who collaborated on the project. The fact that the new technology is electric reduces the need for ventilation and enables us to accelerate toward decarbonization.

But to take that one step further, the process also sets up the ability to integrate sensor based ore sorting technology. This is a technology that has the potential to disrupt the mining industry given it’s ability to reduce energy consumption and water use, increase metal recoveries and lower tailings footprint by reducing the amount of waste material removed from the mine.

The timeline gap

It can take decades to develop and successfully deploy a new technology, and 2050 is fast approaching. Many mining companies do not have the time, expertise or resources to devote to developing new technology because mining, not innovation, is their core business. Suppliers are not always keen to focus on the solutions needed by the mining industry because that does not represent a significant enough share of their business.

Co-development is the only way the mining industry will achieve the innovations necessary to achieve net zero by 2050. It’s an approach that accelerates development and deployment by as much as a factor of ten.

For example, in 2015 CMIC members targeted a 50 per cent reduction in comminution energy consumption as a goal. On December 18, 2020 we tested a new technology co-developed with 31 individuals representing eight companies around the world. These tests on the first prototype showed a 42 per cent reduction in energy.  Design changes and modelling results predict that a 70 per cent reduction in energy is possible with the second prototype.

By co-developing and co-deploying technology, the CMIC consortium took a process that could have taken 20 years and reduced it to five.

Closing the gaps

The key to the success of these projects is co-development. When you work with a group of experts from mining companies and suppliers you are able to identify and then solve the most pressing problems. Comprised of individuals all working to a clearly defined set of challenges and goals, the CMIC consortia is sharing knowledge and experience to minimize the risks of technology development and maximize the rewards.

CMIC currently has two consortia deploying mechanical cutting technology, and together they will accelerate its adoption and enable the integration of other technologies such as ore sorting and material transport. The end result will be the creation of a new underground mining platform that is all electric, removes miners from the face, simplifies automation and enables diversion of waste underground, eliminating a significant amount of waste material being transported and processed on surface operations.

What does co-development mean to your net zero goals?

What would be the impact on your operation if 25-50 per cent of your mine waste material is left underground and not transported and processed on surface? If you can reduce the energy in comminution by 50 per cent how would that affect your bottom line? These are questions that CMIC consortia are answering, and in the process they are moving the mining industry toward its decarbonization goals.

Stay tuned to this blog as we will provide updates on more of the CMIC projects that are transforming mining.

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Mike Stuart

Head of Sales , Intel