How can the mining industry balance growing demand for green tech minerals with the need to cut emissions?
Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and batteries, all these innovations – and with it, the extraction of minerals and metals – will need to scale if we want to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and reach Net Zero.
Copper and nickel are critical inputs for green technologies. To support the energy transition, their production will need to grow by 200-300% by mid-century. However, significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are associated with their extraction and processing: copper releases 4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of copper, while nickel production releases 12-78 tonnes of CO2 per tonne.
The mining industry must cut emissions by 90% by 2050, while increasing production to meet demand. This balancing act is no easy undertaking; it requires collaboration, coordination and swift action across the whole value chain.
As a development finance institution, IFC1 is committed to climate action and the sustainable development of critical minerals. As pressure mounts on the mining industry, IFC, the private sector lead of the World Bank Group’s Climate-Smart Mining Initiative, sought to develop a Net Zero roadmap for copper and nickel mining value chains. Together with the Carbon Trust and partners, it wanted to provide guidance on how the Net Zero mine of the future is possible today.
Constructing a solutions guide for Net Zero mining
IFC, in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, RMI, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Investment, set out to create a clear vision of how the industry can achieve Net Zero and develop an action-focused decarbonisation plan for copper and nickel mining. For this, it was essential to look at low carbon technology solutions and beyond.
We explored financial support mechanisms, innovation policy support, opportunities for a just transition and other ESG considerations.
The roadmap was developed through a series of in-depth consultations that IFC and partners conducted with over 80 experts from mining (e.g., Anglo American, Rio Tinto, BHP, Vale), energy (e.g. Engie), transport (e.g., Tesla), OEMs (e.g., Komatsu), downstream customers, industry associations (e.g., ICMM, International Copper Association, Nickel Institute), commercial banks, NGOs, and academia. Through close collaboration, the consortium: