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Green is the new black in mining after historic net zero deal
Mining giants Antofagasta, Aurubis and Glencore all confirmed to NZI they support ICA's landmark agreement
In what is considered a major net zero landmark deal, key players in the global copper industry are widely embracing last week's agreement to reach net zero in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2050.
Some of the world's biggest mining companies - including Antofagasta, Aurubis and Glencore - told Net Zero Investor that they are throwing their weight behind the pledge to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30-40 percent by 2030 and by 70-80 percent by 2040.
Glencore, arguably the biggest mining player in the world, confirmed they support the agreement.
The company's industrial lead for copper assets, Mike Westerman, shared with NZI that “as economies and industries worldwide seek to decarbonize to achieve their Paris Agreement targets, copper has become an essential material in this energy transition."
He stressed that "Glencore is proud of the role it plays in supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and we are pleased to be part of a wider, collaborative industry ambition toward net zero by 2050 as described in the ICA member roadmap.”
Last week, member companies of the International Copper Association (ICA) reached the landmark deal, which is expected to have significant implications for mining firms' investment decisions and long-term strategies.
As copper demand is set to double by 2050, Copper—The Pathway to Net Zero set out an ambition for ICA’s members — among the largest producers of refined copper in the world — to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by above-mentioned percentages.
Refined copper production emitted an estimated 97 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018.
Scope 2 emissions accounted for 46 percent of these emissions, followed by Scope 3 at 31 percent and Scope 1 at 23 percent. This constitutes around 0.2 percent of global man-made emissions.
Antofagasta is one mining giant that the ICA managed to get on board. Its boss, Iván Arriagada, confirmed they support the agreement.
"Yes, Antofagasta is committed to a modern and sustainable mining future, reflecting the carbon neutral aspirations of the industries and economies we help to decarbonize. The new roadmap clearly demonstrates the industry’s collective ambition to go net zero by 2050, in a manner that transparently incorporates the global mining industry’s best practices.”
Meanwhile, Roland Harings, the CEO of Aurubis, another global mining giant, said in agreement that “copper is a vital material in the global decarbonization shift, and Aurubis is highly committed to producing climate neutral copper well before 2050."
He added that "[this deal] demonstrates a broad industry ambition to reach net zero copper production by 2050 and is a strong first step in a coordinated industry effort to realize sustainable, efficient and net zero operations by 2050.”
The copper industry produces a key raw material used in a vast array of energy generation, energy transmission and digital applications, as well as energy-using products.
Copper is seen as essential for the transition toward a carbon-neutral economy and, as a result, various analysts expect global demand for copper to double by 2050.
“Copper is the catalyst at the heart of the energy transition, with two thirds of the technologies for decarbonization requiring copper as a core component," explained Shehzad Bharmal, ICA Chair and Senior Vice President, Base Metals at Teck Resources.
He noted: "We want to ensure that how we produce that copper is aligned with its most common end use of enabling and accelerating the low carbon transition."
The ICA estimates that certain industry needs and policy goals must also be met in order to hit the roadmap’s goals.
These include further research and development into innovative technologies for emissions reduction, the decarbonization of local power grids and regulatory certainty, including fair and stable royalties and long-term mining licenses.
The roadmap states how ICA members will reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions through four abatement levers based on market-ready and developing technologies: alternative fuels, equipment electrification, decarbonized electricity, and energy efficiency.
Moreover, the ICA stressed the ambition outlined in the roadmap is based on current knowledge of decarbonization technologies and on a set of "sound hypotheses about availability at scale, and the cost and abatement potential of these technologies."
"If required at all, carbon offsets and commercially unrealized technologies like carbon capture would be limited to minimal, highly specific cases," the group said.
Grupo México Mining Division, another major global player, also supports the ICA's ambitions.
Its sustainability director, Francisco López Guerra Larrea, told NZI that the agreement "means Grupo México continues to set emission and environmental targets in line with the ambition of the Paris Agreement, the technology-readiness and the regulatory environment of the geographies in which we operate."
He said that the ICA agreement "will help us facilitate industry-wide collaboration on solutions, as we can only create a net zero copper industry by working together, implementing sector best practices, and finding synergies that work.”
Finally, Freeport-McMoran, another key firm in the global sector, also confirmed they will work to meet the ICA's new targets.
Richard C. Adkerson, its chairman and chief executive Officer, said he fully endorses the ambitious targets, particularly since he realises "the copper Freeport produces is essential to the technologies that will accelerate the shift toward a net zero economy."
However, he stressed "we cannot achieve our climate objectives alone. New technological solutions, innovations and partnerships will continue to be required – many of which will be driven by industry and value chain collaboration.
"This deal represents an important step and vital alignment across the copper industry to take practical, responsible steps toward a net zero mining future," Adkerson concluded.