Zero-emission copper mines a future possibility

Kalkaroo copper-gold project area

The University of Sydney has released a report that maps out how Australia’s copper mining operations can target zero emissions within the next 30 years.

The report, created by the university’s Warren Centre for advanced engineering and the International Copper Association Australia (ICAA), pinpoints five emission-producing aspects of copper mining that can be tackled with new technologies, including exploration, movement of materials, ventilation, processing and water use.

“A zero-emission copper mine of the future will be significantly different from the current copper mining system, and will require fundamental changes in how the mine sources, consumes and abates energy,” he said.

“To achieve a zero-emissions future, ’moonshot’ type thinking is needed and will require a joint commitment from research bodies, the public and private sectors.”

Brinson also said copper’s use in the growing number of green technological innovations, such as electric vehicles and wind farms, means that the resource is a necessity going forward.

“Hybrid and electric vehicles rely on copper, as do renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic, wind farms, hydroelectricity and associated grid infrastructure. Constructing a renewable energy system demands significantly more copper than traditional systems,” he said.

Collaboration over policy and programs; industry networks; capital enablers; future knowledge and an open mindset are five areas the report said will require to achieve technological innovation to reduce emissions in copper mining.

ICAA chief executive officer John Fennell has flagged the need for new innovative ways to mine copper, stating that the copper is facing an ore quality reduction and less deposits.

“The resources sector, and copper mining in particular, faces big challenges – falling ore quality, fewer new deposits and much tougher licence to operate rules,”  he said.

“But we need to do things differently going forward.”

The full roadmap was revealed at the Copper to the World online conference, which took place on Tuesday.

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