Comminution energy usage plus renewables are key targets for global mining decarbonization actions, highlights report

See end of news item for image captions
See end of news item for image captions

  • A new report on mining energy usage of five major commodities addresses a critical industry challenge – the energy used to produce minerals for society and the transition to renewables
  • The Weir Group Plc-commissioned independent report highlights industry opportunities to improve energy and emissions through more efficient site practices, technology and renewables, with crushing and grinding a key target for global mining decarbonization efforts towards net zero
  • CEEC invites collaboration on these shared industry challenges, with our CEO stating that industry knowledge sharing and innovation pilots are vital to accelerate environmental, social and governance (ESG) actions for shareholder, investor and community benefits

An independent report released today shines a light on the global mining industry’s energy usage, illuminating where energy is consumed and linking it with opportunities and pathways to decarbonize.

The report, commissioned by the Weir Group, analyzes mine energy use from over 40 published studies, centred on five commodities – copper, gold, iron ore, nickel and lithium. For these five metals, it finds comminution – the crushing and grinding of rocks – alone accounts for 25% of final energy consumption at an ‘average’ mine site. Extended across all hard rock mining, this is equivalent to up to 1% of total final energy consumption globally.

The report reconfirms comminution as a key target for energy and emissions reduction efforts. These findings align with the mission of the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC), a global initiative to accelerate eco-efficient minerals, with a focus on energy-efficient comminution. It extends on previous CEEC publicity indicating up to 3% of global electrical energy is used in comminution when taking into account all mined commodities, quarrying and cement production.

In addition to just optimizing comminution, the report also highlights other energy and emissions reduction opportunities such as the redesign of grinding circuits at greenfield sites, improved drill and blast approaches, preconcentration, and the use of AI and machine learning to improve decision making.

The report emphasizes the mining industry’s crucial role in supporting the transition to net zero emissions, needed to limit global temperatures in line with the Paris Agreement. This includes more efficient and sustainable technologies if the industry is to meet the challenge of decarbonization.

Despite the scale of the challenge, the report underlines that small improvements in existing mines can lead to large savings in both energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Report author Marc Allen states a 5% incremental improvement in energy efficiency across comminution could result in GHG emission reductions of more than 30 Mt of CO2e.

Mr Allen said “A relatively modest 5% improvement in comminution, across the industry, may result in emissions reductions close to the total emissions for New Zealand (35 Mt CO2-e). A more robust energy audit process and implementation of low-cost opportunities across a mine and process plant may result in total energy savings of up to 10-15% and overall emissions reductions of over 200 Mt of CO2-e/a, depending on the source of electricity. Large-scale introduction of renewable energy provides the potential to reduce emissions significantly in the industry – hundreds of millions of tonnes of GHG savings when there is widespread adoption of renewable energy and energy storage.”

CEEC CEO Alison Keogh commended Weir for commissioning this timely work, and all industry leaders taking proactive steps to reduce mining’s footprint. She said outstanding CEEC Medal winning work and 700 published advances have already shared good options for miners to consider, thanks to CEEC sponsors, volunteers and authors. Ms Keogh urged industry to collaborate to accelerate decarbonization steps.

“More open knowledge sharing helps speed installations of renewables and energy-efficient approaches across all of industry. Benefits also include increased productivity, shareholder value, and financing as companies demonstrate performance towards net zero emissions sooner,” Ms Keogh said.

She cited three key collaboration actions vital to success: (1) sharing best practices, to ensure existing mines and processing plants are better informed and take actions earlier to become more energy and water efficient; (2) sharing new technologies, designs and innovations; and (3) supporting testwork and pilots of novel technology on sites and at increasing scales.

Ms Keogh called for greater industry dialogue, noting “This report highlights both a challenge and an opportunity to revitalize cross-industry discussion and actions on decarbonization and ESG solutions. Weir is one of many visionary CEEC sponsors supporting public good initiatives like CEEC; we invite industry leaders to actively contribute and collaborate through mining-vendor-research partnerships and share knowledge, site case studies and net zero plans via independent organizations such as CEEC. Together, we can accelerate improved energy, emissions and water footprint across industry faster.”

Weir Group Chief Executive Jon Stanton commented: “Mining needs to become more sustainable and efficient if it is to provide essential resources the world needs for decarbonization while reducing its own environmental impact. This report is an important contribution to that debate which we hope will spark thoughtful conversations around the world on the way forward.”

Download the independent Mining Energy Consumption 2021 report here. For more information about the report, contact Weir Group Head of Communications and Public Affairs This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or report author and engeco Technical Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact CEEC This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to join the movement by sponsoring its not-for-profit work and/or contributing examples of published solutions showing more energy and water efficient comminution and processing. Join the mailing list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for regular news, peer reviewed articles and collaborative, informative events.

Image Captions

Image 1 Caption: Wind and Solar Farm, Australia: Mining and METS (mining equipment, technology and services) companies are increasingly switching to renewables or hybrid energy supply to decarbonize. Image courtesy of ENGIE.

Image 2 Caption: Enduron High Pressure Grinding Roll (HPGR): HPGRs are an example of a more eco efficient comminution technology being adopted by many mine sites worldwide. - Image courtesy of Weir Group Plc.

Image 3 Caption: Haul truck at mine site, US: Miners are increasingly switching from traditional diesel-powered fleet to battery-powered load and haul, which can use lower emissions energy - Image courtesy of Weir Group Plc.