Electric Mine Consortium formed to decarbonise mining
Fourteen mining and mining services companies, including State of Play, Sandvik, Epiroc, OZ Minerals, South32, Gold Fields, Safescape, Dassault Systemes, Energy Vault, Hahn, Horizon Power, 3ME, IGO and Barminco have come together to form the Electric Mine Consortium aimed at decarbonising the mining industry.
The Consortium was born from the 2020 report State of Play - Electrification, which covered extensive research aimed at understanding the drivers and barriers of mine electrification, identifying the key enabling technologies and enabling collaboration to accelerate their adoption.
State of Play co-founder, Graeme Stanway, noted that while the industry as a whole understands the benefits of mine electrification, there are still challenges to overcome on the journey towards adoption, namely cost.
“Our data shows renewables, all electric systems and batteries will help fuel the change towards a healthier, economically viable future of mining, but uncertainty remains when it comes to which area to invest in first, and how,” he said.
“Here in Australia, we have an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in our most remote operations. Local mine sites have the opportunity to install solar, wind and battery energy storage systems to power their operations at a much cheaper cost than many global players.”
State of Play’s report surveyed executives across the industry to get the big picture:
- 57% expect energy transition to be the global trend that will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 15 years
- 89% expect mine sites will electrify within the next 20 years
- 61% expect the next generation of mines will be all electric
- 83% expect renewable energy technologies will significantly change mining operations over the next 15 years
- 98% view mine automation is the technology that will benefit the most from electrification
The Electric Mine Consortium’s mission is to support collaboration for electrification and unlock the clean energy transformation of mine sites. It states: “The way the we generate, store and harness energy around the globe is undergoing a period of major change. A global ecosystem has begun to emerge to underpin the innovation and scaling of electrification technologies. A rare trifecta, electrification will provide economic, health and environmental value for the mining industry.
“Electrification creates enormous opportunities for operational cost savings, innovative mine designs and resilience against uncertainty. It will reduce the exposure to carcinogenic diesel particulates and reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 100%. The value upside of this not only increases productivity in existing assets, but also improves a company’s ability to unlock deeper and more remote ore bodies.”
The announcement also included a joint statement by the mining and mining contractor company member CEOs which pledged: “We share the objective to accelerate industry progress towards electric, zero emissions and zero particulates mines. Electrification of mine sites, powered by clean energy, offers our industry the option to operate our mines in line with our individual commitments to decarbonise our operations. It also provides the ability to improve the working environment for our employees by eliminating the use of diesel in underground mines.
Electrification of mine sites is a key technical foundation for the automation of our equipment which will provide a large step forward in productivity and safety. Electrification offers the potential to drive improved economics with simplified, interoperable, electric-drive equipment resulting in lower mining and energy costs. We have chosen to join with over a dozen other mining and service companies in the ‘Electric Mine Consortium’ to achieve these goals. The consortium will allow us to collaboratively: 1. Resolve key technology choices 2. Shape the supplier ecosystem 3. Influence policy, and 4. Communicate the business case. By working together, we plan to accelerate progress using our joint scale and influence.”
This was signed off by Andrew Cole of OZ Minerals, Graham Kerr of South32, Paul Muller of Barminco, IGO’s Peter Bradford, and Stuart Mathews from Gold Fields Australia.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”