Tracking decarbonisation in the mining sector
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase as mining companies transport ore over increased distances in opencast operations or extract ore from deeper levels in underground operations. The rising costs of energy sources and enhanced awareness of the impacts of GHG emissions support energy- and emission-reduction initiatives. This paper evaluates the metrics used in GHG emissions projections and target-setting over a ten-year period from 2005, linked to the South African Energy Efficiency Accord. The GHG inventories of a gold- and iron ore-mining company, together with the implemented energy saving projects, were analysed to evaluate progress against targets. A broad target value, defined as a percentage reduction of GHG emissions over time, was found to be problematic in monitoring performance over time. A direct link between emissions and output metrics was not found, due to external factors, such as the impact of changes in the grid emission factor, acquisitions and divestments, and internal factors, including changes in ore grade or mining depth. Using a metric linked to the activity within the operations, such as total tonnes mined, is, therefore, more appropriate for mining companies than production output. A methodological tool, using both the inventory and the savings from implemented mitigation initiatives, is proposed to improve GHG emissions projections, establishing a counterfactual baseline, and to support target setting. Decarbonisation of the mining industry would require careful review of the metrics to project and set GHG reduction targets.
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