By David Gardner, Head of Mining – Aggreko Africa
Mining Indaba 2022 once again proved itself to be a landmark event that continues to challenge the mining community, global leaders, and industry heavyweights to tackle the problems that impact African mining and to find innovative solutions to drive its evolution on the local and global stage. In May this year, the event hosted three heads of state alongside the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and set its focus on topics that promise to redefine the landscape, economics and community. Alongside inclusive mining, investment, technology and ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) the event had a dedicated Green Metals Day that focused on energy, net-zero and meeting the COP26 challenge.
In addition to providing the mining sector with a very clear environmental benchmark – one that will not just address environmental concerns but drive investment – net-zero offers the sector an opportunity. The move from traditional energy sources to more diverse energy platforms that are green, reusable and have a measurably reduced environmental impact can potentially see an increase in demand for the specific resources and minerals required to develop these solutions. This is an added benefit to a sector that is currently undergoing an extensive and meaningful energy transition.
This shift in focus towards alternative and renewable fuel solutions has the backing of some of the world’s leaders in mining, many having committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. These companies include BHP Group, Rio Tinto Group, Vale SA, Glencore PLC and Freeport-McMoRan Inc., among many others. Their goal is to offset their scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gases by the deadline. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, an impressive 21 of the 30 largest mining and metals companies have put net-zero on their agenda. The upside of the cost is balanced by a growing interest from green investors and funds that want their money to go where the planet is.
The reality is that governments, investors, NGOs, regulators, customers and insurers are pushing the transition to net-zero, advocating for a comprehensive change in how business lives with the planet. And there are increasing expectations around ESG criteria and how these are reported. According to Deloitte, this is the time for the sector to adopt an holistic approach to ESG that allows for organisations to respond rapidly, and with increased agility, to opportunities, challenges and risks.
All these factors have combined to take green conversations from the boardroom to the coal face, shifting an industry once rigid with tradition to become one that’s cutting the edges of innovation and transformation. As noted, many companies have embraced the energy transformation and are actively approaching energy suppliers in search of solutions that are big, creative and, of course, green. This makes it the right time for energy suppliers to step into the limelight by actively developing and curating energy solutions that are aligned with this greener dialogue and future.
Companies may want net-zero and renewable energy, but they also want this to be achieved by collaborating with companies that have invested in new technology and successfully integrated renewables into their power services. Aggreko has been a world leader in providing mobile modular power for the past 60 years, and for the last 30 has actively engaged with the mining sector to embed advanced and intelligent energy solutions that adapt to changing needs.
Power technology is being adopted at speed, and across a broad range of applications and facilities and the mining sector is becoming truly innovative in its approaches and strategies. Particularly now, as renewables are becoming more affordable and diverse in their applications and scale. Aggreko has created one of the world’s largest hybridised solar energy microgrids to power a mine in Western Australia, for example, and has also used incredibly efficient gas engines to create virtual gas pipelines to reduce reliance on diesel.
This type of renewable energy microgrid has become a trusted and cost-effective approach to energy provision for the sector, especially where the life of mine contracts are longer and come with baseload power requirements. They are also invaluable to mines that are located in areas too remote for the utility power supply or where companies are looking to take greener control over their power sources. This is an example of how energy companies can inventively customise their solutions to simplify and de-risk energy decision-making for mining companies and leverage a blend of energy options to actively reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency.
This year’s Mining Indaba is likely to have set new standards in ESG and energy mandates and expectations, and it’s up to energy companies to ensure that the sector has the tools it needs to achieve them – realistically and sustainably. And to put the energy money where the green is by actively reducing reliance on fossil fuels and legacy energy solutions. Aggreko has its own goal to achieve net-zero across the fleet and for customers by 2050 and to reduce the amount of diesel used in customer solutions by at least 50% by 2030. This is the time to walk the environment talk and transition to cleaner power without compromising on reliability or growth.