How will electrification reduce mining’s large carbon footprint? 

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The mining industry is responsible for around 4% to 7% of global CO2 emissions 

The mining industry plays a vital role in the global economy and is a key enabler of the global energy transition. However, it has traditionally relied heavily on fossil fuels, such as diesel, to power its equipment and operations. 

The industry is responsible for approximately 4% to7% of global CO2 emissions. Diesel-powered equipment and operations account for a significant portion of these emissions. They are responsible for anywhere from 30% to 80% of a mine’s direct greenhouse gas emissions (depending on the mine site’s geography and the materials that are being mined).  

The demand for metals and minerals will grow to support clean-energy technologies 

Mining plays an important role in building a more sustainable world. That’s because green-energy technologies, such as solar plants, wind farms, and electric vehicles (EVs), require more metals and minerals than their fossil fuel-based counterparts. For example, an electric vehicle requires around six times more mineral inputs than a fossil-fuel powered car.  

Demand for metals and minerals will grow by estimated 500% by 2050, in large part to support this green technology. The challenge is to meet this need while still limiting mining companies’ own CO2 emissions. 


Transitioning from diesel-powered to electrified equipment and processes will help mining companies meet demand while keeping their own CO2 emissions in check  

Powering processes, equipment, and power generation with low carbon or decarbonized electricity instead of fossil fuels will be an important way to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. For now, electrification is primarily focused on electrifying mine equipment. For example, traditionally hauling trucks have been powered by diesel and gas, but electric trucks are now an alternative.  

This can make a big impact on reducing mining companies’ carbon footprint. For instance, there are an estimated 28,000 large mine hauling trucks in operation worldwide. They collectively emit more than 68 million tons of CO2 each year – the equivalent of CO2 emissions from more than 8.5 million homes’ energy use for one year. Switching from gas or diesel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles can nearly eliminate these emissions.   

Some mines, such as the Borden mine in Ontario, Canada, have already proven that electrification is achievable without sacrificing performance. At the Borden mine, Newmont has replaced its entire underground truck fleet from diesel-powered to battery-powered. Not only has this change reduced CO2 emissions, but it has also improved air quality, removed expensive internal combustion engine maintenance, and reduced noise pollution.   

Underground mining electrification has a big decarbonization impact, since electric engines are around 90% efficient and diesel engines are only around 30% efficient. The rest is heat emitted to ambient air, so that could make a large difference on ventilation, which could then be decreased by 30%. Ventilation can account for 30% to 50% of the total energy consumption of an underground mine.   

To prepare for equipment and process electrification, mines must manage the changing balance of electricity demand and supply (but also regulations) 

Electrification adds complexity because it affects both power supply and demand. Traditionally an important concern, in terms of energy, was about how much diesel or gas was needed and ensuring its logistics and filling. However, to support electrification, mines need to plan and schedule the electricity supply and demand in a way that supports the entire management system. 

  • Electricity demand side – As mines transform assets and processes from fossil fuel-powered to electricity-powered, the challenge is about energy management, how to manage the new loads ensuring system stability and how to change the electrical infrastructure taking into account that the equipment will be powered by electricity. 
  • Electricity supply side (power to mines) – The current transformation could potentially double the electricity demand in a mine, and it should be provided by renewable sources, such as wind, geothermal, and solar, whenever possible. 

Electrification is simplified when mines develop a roadmap for change   

Electrifying processes and assets, like traditional diesel-powered hauling and loading equipment, is primarily seen as an opportunity to lower CO2 emissions. However, it has other big benefits, including improving operators’ and mine workers’ working conditions (reducing heat and noise) and in some cases decreasing ventilations needs. 

The challenge is how to redesign an electrical infrastructure according to mines’ needs and to supply enough power to accomplish their goals. By working with a team of experts, companies can develop a personalized, scalable electrification roadmap. Trusted partners help mines reach decarbonization goals by designing a plan that ensures the operational continuity of their processes. This strategy guides companies through each step of the electrification strategy, including identifying where resources should be allocated and determining how to meet energy needs.  

Start developing your process electrification strategy  

Connect with Process Electrification experts to learn more about how we can support mines’ decarbonization journey. 

Interested in process and asset electrification, but don’t know where to start? Contact our process electrification consultants.

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