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Renewable energy in the South American mining and metals industry

28 October 2021

As the suppliers of the minerals and metals that are critical to decarbonisation and sustainable development, the mining and metals industry has a particular responsibility to minimise the impact of its operations on the environment.

ICMM members are assessing local challenges and opportunities to advance operational level solutions as part of their commitment to net zero scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner. One key area of focus is on reducing the emissions from purchased electricity (Scope 2 emissions), which represent about 40 per cent of direct and indirect GHG emissions from ICMM members.

As renewable energy becomes more and more accessible, ICMM members are making significant efforts to power their mines with green energy. A report by Wood Mackenzie on renewables for the mining sector shows that mining companies are likely to add 18.5 GW of cumulative renewable capacity to operations by 2025. It is expected that almost 50 per cent of this capacity will be deployed in Latin America – a region with exceptional renewable resources.

In key mining jurisdictions such as Chile, it is expected that 90 per cent of mines operating in this country will have at least some renewable energy option installed by 2025. ICMM members are working particularly hard in this region to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy at their operations, for example:

Having renewable supply not only enables the direct reduction of Scope 2 emissions, but also supports the electrification of other key areas, such as mining transportation.

ICMM’s Innovation for Cleaner and Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative is working in this area, by bringing together our company members with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology suppliers to accelerate the development of a new generation of cleaner mining vehicles with the aim to introduce GHG-free surface mining vehicles by 2040. On average, 50 per cent of Scope 1 emissions from a mine site are linked to mining fleets – so making progress in this area is crucial to realising net zero for the industry.

Reducing GHG emissions is no easy feat, requiring new ways of working and myriad new technologies to transform how we mine the resources that society has become dependent on. ICMM members are taking action to decarbonise the way they operate, to not only reduce their impact on climate change, but also support the decarbonisation of the value chains of others. This is just one way that they are mining with principles to improve their environmental performance, and contribute to the realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement.