Teck commits to carbon neutrality by 2050
Already lowering emissions to mine low-carbon energy metals Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – February 5, 2020
Last updated 9/19/2020 at 12:10pm
Understanding that the transition to renewable energy is going to require a vast amount of metals yet mining them consumes a lot of energy, Teck Resources Ltd. is joining a growing number of mining companies with aims of becoming carbon neutral.
On Feb. 3, the diversified Canada-based miner announced a goal to be carbon neutral across all operations and activities by 2050.
"Setting the objective to be carbon neutral by 2050 is an important step forward in our commitment to reducing emissions and taking action on climate change," said Teck Resources President and CEO Don Lindsay.
Teck's roadmap to achieving carbon neutrality includes investigating alternative ways of moving materials at its mines, using cleaner power sources and implementing efficiency improvements.
Like all miners, the most significant sources of emissions across Teck's mines in Canada, Chile, Peru and the United States are from generating the massive amounts of electricity needed by these industrial operations and fueling the haul trucks and other heavy equipment needed to excavate and transport the massive amounts of earth needed to extract the metals needed by modern society.
Teck is looking into several ways to decarbonize these emission sources and achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050:
• Increase procurement of electricity for operations from clean energy sources such as solar.
• Replace internal combustion engine vehicles through the adoption of zero-emissions alternatives.
• Use low-carbon alternatives for moving material at sites, such as replacing diesel haul trucks with electric or low-carbon trucks, or using electricity-powered conveyors.
• Use lower emission alternatives for stationary combustion processes such as the heat needed to dry steelmaking coal.
• Assess the potential for using emerging technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
• Work with industry partners to advance carbon reduction technologies for mining.
In order to track and be accountable for its ultimate goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, Teck will establish interim carbon reduction milestones for 2025 and 2030.
While Teck's goal to be completely carbon neutral is new, its commitment to lower its carbon footprint is not.
Since 2011, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based mining company has implemented projects and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at our operations by 289,000 metric tons, equivalent to taking over 88,000 internal combustion engine (ICE) cars off global highways.
Much of the reduction achieved so far is due to the fact that 81 percent of all the electricity powering its mines comes from renewable power sources such as wind, solar and hydro.
Teck has also been at the forefront of testing lower carbon-emitting fuels for its heavy equipment.
In 2016, the company announced that it was piloting a project to use a mixture of liquified natural gas (LNG) and diesel to fuel six haul trucks at its Fording River steelmaking coal operation in southeastern B.C.
"LNG is a fuel source that has the potential to lower costs, significantly reduce emissions and improve environmental performance at our operations," Lindsay said at the time. "We are committed to minimizing our own carbon footprint, while at the same time continuing to provide the mining products that are essential to building a modern, low-carbon society."
While not completely doing away with the need for diesel, GFS Corp., the company that manufactures the units tested, claims the system reduces diesel consumption by 50 to 70 percent while retaining the crucial power and torque for which diesel engines are notable.
At the same time, these LNG-diesel trucks emit about 20 percent less greenhouse gas, compared with their conventional contemporaries.
While this solution is a step in the right direction, it is expected that Teck and other mining companies will be interested in bringing on more electric mining equipment. Much of the stationary or semi-stationary equipment, such as large excavating equipment, already run on electricity delivered via powerline. Battery-powered mobile equipment is now on the cusp of being advanced to the point of commercially viable applications in mining.
Teck is evaluating carbon reducing solutions that are currently commercially competitive and monitoring earlier stage technologies as they mature towards commercial viability.
The Canadian miner said it is also investing in the metals needed for the transition to a low-carbon economy by significantly increasing copper production.
Copper is an essential material for low-carbon technology. It is estimated that fully electric cars contain around 180 pounds of copper, which is roughly 4 to 10 times more than the 18-49 lb in a conventional ICE vehicle.
It is estimated that renewable energy power generation, such as solar and wind, require approximately five metric tons of copper for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electric generation, which is around five times more copper than traditional power sources, such as coal and natural gas.
As a result, World Bank Group estimates that roughly 550 million tons of copper will be needed for generating and transmitting electricity over the next 25 years, which is about the same amount as mankind has produced in the past 5,000 years.
More information on World Bank's forecast for the minerals and metals needed for a low-carbon future can be read at Climate smart mining offers opportunities in the Jan. 29 edition of Metal Tech News.
In addition to copper, Teck mines produce germanium, indium and cadmium – all used in photovoltaic solar technologies – as well as zinc, lead and steelmaking coal.
Teck already has among the world's lowest carbon intensities for producing its steelmaking coal, copper, zinc and lead. By 2050, the miner hopes to be able to boast that it is mining these materials without adding any carbon to the atmosphere.
"Climate change is a global challenge that our company and our industry need to contribute to solving," Lindsay said. "We will pursue the technologies and measures necessary to reduce carbon emissions across our business, while continuing to responsibly provide the metals and minerals necessary for the world's transition to a low-carbon economy."