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Early Adopters Will Help Drive Positive Industry Change

8 February 2021

ICMM's Veronica Martinez explains to Peter Appleby, for Mexico Business News, how ICMM is promoting a sustainable and responsible mining industry through the Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative and Mining Principles.

Interview with Veronica Martinez first published by Mexico Business News on 8 February 2021.

How does the ICSV tie in with the mining principles of ICMM and the US SDGs?

The Innovation for Cleaner and Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative was launched in 2018 to address three of the most critical challenges that the mining industry faces today: health, safety and the environment, aligned with our pursuit to continuously improve the performance of the industry.

We have a component for vehicle collisions because this is the No. 1 cause of fatalities in the industry. This must be tackled by all companies but the challenge is how to integrate available technology into the vehicles, as well as developing new technologies to reduce fatalities. The health challenge is related to the underground environment. The WHO classified diesel particulate matter (DPM) as a carcinogen and because the underground mine is considered an enclosed space, workers’ exposure to DPM can be affected, resulting in negative health impacts. Therefore, both emissions and exposure must be reduced. Mining also responds to environmental issues. When we analyzed the GHG emissions from mine sites, we discovered that up to 80 percent of those emissions come from the trucks. If we want to make progress with decarbonization, we must concentrate our efforts on trucks.

Our goal is to make collision avoidance technology available and minimize the impact of DPM emissions by 2025. The GHG emissions are a greater challenge; nevertheless, our goal is to introduce zero-emission trucks into surface operations by 2040.

To tackle these problems, we need to work with vehicle manufacturers. Due to the scale of R&D needed, we needed to work with suppliers in a different way. This means having an industry partnership, rather than customer-client relationship. For this reason, the ICSV is unique. It is a CEO-led initiative that requires collaboration and shared governance. All partners also share the same ambitions for the program and must together to overcome its challenges. For that reason, we have utilized the combined power of the ICMM name, whose members represent around 30 percent of the mining and metals market. This means we have 27 mining companies backing us. We are confident that the Initiative’s ambitions can be met.

How does the collaboration between mining companies and OEMs work?

ICMM provides the platform so that mining companies can get together with OEMs, under anti-competition and anti-trust guidelines. We do not engage in developing the technology itself because we are technology neutral. Our ambition is to encourage innovation and accelerate the development of zero-emission technology but there are multiple pathways to reach that goal. We do not decide which is the better or preferred technology for that purpose: different technologies serve different mining profiles. For example, Anglo-American is currently developing a hydrogen-powered truck and BHP has chosen the route of trolley assist/battery vehicles.

We are using our convening power to bring these parties together for the betterment of the industry’s social and environmental aims.

What have been the major milestones for ICMM?

In 2019, we developed what we call our Maturity Frameworks. These apply for each of the health, safety and environment streams. The framework is a simple innovation tool for companies to map, motivate and measure their progress against the ambitions (or level of ‘maturity’).

The Maturity Frameworks are available for all companies. They helped create a common language to address challenges. They consist of five levels. For example, level five of the environment stream occurs when a company has a fully decarbonized fleet of trucks within its mine, while level one is business as usual. There are also categories, such as mine design, operational and technology use. This year, ICMM members have used this tool to rank themselves at a site level. They conducted over 200 individual self-assessments at sites. We aggregated these results and shared them with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This effort sends a strong market signal to OEMs that a critical mass of mining companies are involved in this process. We are at an early maturity stage and need to close the gap but we have a much better understanding of the elements that must be addressed in order to advance. We must work on preparing mines for the adoption of new technology because, in some cases, it is already available but it is not being adopted yet. We want to know why this is and how we can help with the adoption process. This process was a huge milestone and was completed despite the pandemic.

How does involvement in the ICSV benefit businesses?

There is increasing pressure from investors and society in general for mining companies to have strong climate action. Many companies have announced public targets and have increased their level of commitment.

But, the net zero emissions target by 2050 is difficult to reach alone. Companies need to know how to get there and we are trying to help them understand how to reach that goal. How can a company create an adoption readiness strategy? What are the key considerations? How can a company develop leadership within itself to push toward those aims? The why behind companies joining the ICSV initiative is because of how we offer it. Collaboration is the only way to achieve the industry’s massive ambitions.

How will these goals playout with smaller mining companies in Mexico?

ICMM works to promote a sustainable and responsible mining industry through our Mining Principles, performance expectations, our position statements and more. Those requirements apply to our members, but we also have supporting information and resources for non-members that can be used to develop strategies.

With the ICSV initiative, we know that junior companies will struggle to make the investment required, such as for a cleaner fleet of trucks. We expect participants in the ICSV initiative to be early adopters and to be able to accelerate the development of technologies that will become more affordable for others. This is similar to the renewables sector. We have seen progress made in countries like Chile, where almost 90 percent of mines will be powered by renewable energy, including the junior mines. But early adopters are needed to take those risks and this initiative demonstrates that ICMM members are willing to do that.