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Mining companies commit to net zero by 2050

William Gleason

October 5, 2021

The top mining companies around the world are often in direct competition to produce the most minerals, to acquire the most operations and to be the biggest player in whichever sector they operate. However, when it comes to meeting environmental, societal and governance (ESG) goals, these same companies are now often working in conjunction with each other and other partners including equipment manufacturers.

On Oct. 5, 28 leaders of the world’s largest mining companies joined together in the pledge to reach a goal of zero direct and indirect carbon emissions by 2050, or sooner. The 28 leaders signed a letter composed by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

“ICMM members’ collective commitment to net zero scope one (direct) and two (indirect) greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is a pivotal moment in our history,” ICMM chief executive officer Rohitesh Dhawan said in an open letter signed by the 28 chiefs of the world’s largest miners.

The announcement comes before next month’s U.N. climate gathering that aims to achieve more ambitious climate action from the nearly 200 countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

Many miners including Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP, under pressure from environmental activists and shareholders, have already committed to net zero by 2050 in direct and indirect emissions.

“Although we may have individual decarbonization targets which in some cases go beyond our collective commitment, this represents a joint ambition from companies that make up one-third of the global mining and metals industry,” the ICMM said.

Its 28 members, whose operations span 650 sites over 50 countries, will report annually on their progress to decarbonize annually.

While the 28 members have vowed to cut their own emissions the mining industry is challenged with cutting emissions while also producing the metals and minerals that will be crucial to the building of a low-carbon economy, metals like copper, nickel and cobalt.

The Industry is also looking ahead to reducing scope three emissions. Under industrial reporting rules, scope 1 and 2 emissions are those generated by miners themselves, while scope 3 emissions are those generated by customers using a miner's products.

Fortescue Metals announced that it plans to reach carbon neutrality in scope 3 emissions by 2040.

Glencore, the world’s largest supplier of seaborne thermal coal, has committed to a scope three goal mainly by running down its coal mines.

Fortescue Metals chief executive Elizabeth Gaines told Australia’s ABC News that the goals for Fortescue are “stretch targets” and said they showed how FMG wanted to become the world's first major supplier of green iron ore.

Gaines said central to the plans was the company's new subsidiary Fortescue Future Industries, through which it planned to produce 15 Mt (16.5 million st) of green hydrogen by 2030.

Unlike conventional options, green hydrogen is made by using renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels, to split water into its separate components - oxygen and hydrogen.

"Fortescue has commenced its transition from a pure play iron ore producer to a green renewables and resources company, underpinned by the world's first major carbon emission heavy industry operation to set a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

 Photo: A electric haul truck

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