Mining companies look for solutions to climate change challenge

05 January 2019

Major global mining companies are reading the runes of climate change and looking for technical answers to their dependence on fossil fuels and shrinking water availability. The Financial Times has interviewed miners at Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP who make clear their view that the industry, as presently construed, is unsustainable.

It quotes an executive at Anglo who says that modern mines now consume ten times the energy and twice the amount of water than they did 100 years ago, seeking to extract more mineral out of ever larger amounts of rock. Anglo is testing new technologies at its El Soldado copper mine in Chile to reduce that dependency. But he concedes that the industry is not doing nearly enough to plan for the future.

Other companies in Chile, notably Antafogasta, are increasing the amount of renewable water supplies that they consume and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. In Australia, BHP is powering its mining vehicles from lithium batteries, showing how adaptation can go hand-in-hand with raising demand for mineral products. And unlike most mining majors, RTZ now has no presence in mining for fossil fuels.

Whether or not such developments will make significant difference to the Peruvian mining industry is open to doubt. In parallel, ever larger mining operations will be exacerbating conditions in a country which, more than most, is likely to be a major victim of climate change.

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