Hello, and welcome to Global Trends – the talk show covering YOUR industry.
I’m Saana Azzam and I’m your host, helping you to delve deep into the trends that are making the headlines and driving forward developments across the industry. Throughout this series, we’re looking at what’s happening today and what matters for tomorrow, in the global OTR sector.
Of course, I’m not doing this on my own. In each episode, I shall be inviting into the studio some of leading experts – the best and the brightest – from across the industry and from around the world.
Global Trends is here to deliver information, knowledge and understanding to inform and inspire you.
We want you to treat Global Trends as a launchpad for your own curiosity. At the end of the episode, look up our social media channels, join in the conversation, and see what everyone has to say.
I hope we can whet your appetite enough that you can explore today’s topic further for yourself.
And the subject we’re exploring today? So far, we’ve looked at technology, and still coming up are Net Zero, and Alternative Energies. There’s quite an overlap between all these topics, so we’re not by any means exploring them in isolation.
And that’s certainly the case for ‘Sustainability’, today’s focus. A term that’s moved from relative obscurity into everyday usage in recent years, it’s been applied to everything from food to transport to consumer goods.
But what does it really mean, in practice? How can we address it?
And, crucially, can an industry like mining, which relies on extraction of finite mineral resources, ever truly be sustainable?
Those are some of the questions that we’ll try to answer during today’s episode of Global Trends.
Let’s find out who’s going to help me find those answers, as we welcome the first of our guests to the studio today.
Mining Magazine, since 1909, has provided those in the industry with in-depth, technical insight into all the operational aspects of mining. It was founded by none other than Herbert Hoover, who would later become the 31st US president.
Today, its editor-in-chief is Craig Guthrie. He leads an editorial team to provide industry coverage on critical midstream operations, technology, computing, and more, in the mining industry. Expert in journalism, social media, digital media, and news writing, he is a communications professional, with a specialized focus on digital channels.
Let’s have him on stage! Craig why don’t you join me?
Craig, a very warm welcome to Global Trends!
I am delighted to be here, thanks for having me.
Wonderful, now it’s a pleasure to have you. As usual, though, before we get started with our guest, don’t miss the chance to follow us, watch the episode on our social media channels, and share your reactions and opinions!
So, Craig, let’s start: how would you say the magazine’s purpose has changed over the last 114 years?
Well, in some ways it hasn’t actually changed – lots of threads from the past are still continuing today. For example, it’s still a forum to share methods to improve productivity and efficiency across the industry.
So, the subjects may have changed but the way we look at them hasn’t.
And is ESG a subject that is coming up?
Yes, it’s an increasingly area of our coverage, alongside other modern developments such as artificial intelligence and battery-electric vehicles.
We have a broad remit, from mine design all the way to processing. It’s a huge value chain, a huge breadth of disciplines, in a really broad geographic area.
So, with that in mind, I guess there’s no typical reader for the magazine?
If I was to define an indicative group, it would be the C-suite, but the C-suite that’s focused on the technology and operation side of things.
Which brings us neatly into ESG: in many companies, the ESG officer is in that C-suite position. So, what’s driven that?
So, what we’ve seen at a corporate level is the net zero goal have been set into the future - 2030, 2040, even 2050. So, our readership is focused on actually operationalizing those goals – achieving them on the ground. And that involves technology around that, that involves mine design, plant design, swapping out the fleet for electric fleets. The conversation is about how to do this at a practical level, and it won’t be something that can be achieved over night. It’s going to take decades to achieve that.
So, our big challenge is this is all occurring at a time that demand is spiralling for transition metals. So, it’s double its sword.
Mmm, excellent, and so, for all this talk of ESG, mining can be accused of greenwashing. So, can mining ever be described as sustainable, especially when we’re using a finite resource?
Yeah, that’s the charge. And for all the moves to renewable energies – wind, solar, for example – we will need minerals. Recycling batteries will meet only a tiny percentage of the demand needed for that.
We need to help the world move away from fossil fuels and towards minerals.
Those minerals, those transition metals – they are going to become the new oil and gas, I suppose?
Effectively, yes, but they’ll be consumed in a very different way. They will be reused and then recovered. They’re not completely consumed like fossil fuel.
Will we reach a point where extraction decreases? All our existing metals will be infinitely recyclable?
Potentially, but only very into the future. Most models expect global population to keep growing until, 2080, 2090, and they’ll all need electricity and development to emerging populization, which will need new material.
Let’s give viewers an idea of how these policies are working out. What are some ESG examples you’ve seen?
Well, we’re seeing a large process of digitalization and automation taking across the industry. For example, big players are swapping out diesel trucks for battery-electric trucks. And we are also seeing the same process with automation and drilling rigs – for example, a controller in Finland could operate a drilling rig in Latin America, for example. What we’re aiming for is a fully autonomized, fully digitalized mine, that’s low footprint.
For example, an underground mine where all the operations are under the surface and only a very small footprint on above the surface.
And then in ESG we have the letter S, for Social, so can you talk to me more about that?
True, in certain jurisdictions, mining is an important employer. And if all the workforce was to be replaced with robots, then that would have a major impact on that Country’s economy.
So, there are also new standards that are coming into place, that are playing important roles in societal impact, and they are impacting on tailings, waste and end-of-life. There are some big things around that about how can we convert the waste into positives for the society.
So, can we?
Yes. For example, we’ve been working with a miner in Kazakhstan, who has used the tailing from their mines and converted it into an aggregate that can be monetized for their local community. Another example is VAR-LAY, the Brazilian iron and ore miner who is using sand for mits operations in construction materials fulfilling an important need.
So, there are some important developments there, particularly around traceability.
Yes, so let’s talk about traceability. You mentioned standard bodies – they’ve put pressure, or they’re source of pressure on companies to comply with ESG obligations; shareholders are another.
But are we seeing any pressure from consumers yet?
I don’t think that we have the same level of scrutiny yet, but some majors are preparing for it, and the EU is preparing legislation that will have more demand, more traceability in the supply chain.
And, for example, Rio Tinto has already introduced formative ideas, such as partnering with a blockchain company to trace metals and aluminium can from the mine all the way to the market. And it’s not too long before consumers get this and demand more transparency.
Well, I believe that’s the perfect segue for my next question: what is the trend in consumer and corporate circles?
Well, like I lit it to it at the start, it starts with the high-level pressure from investors, but it will soon filter down to the public level.
You don’t see protests around mining to the same degree you see around oil and gas; if groups took a closer look at the industry that could become a reality. There was an interesting example earlier this year, where a London University barred its graduates from even talking to mining companies as a potential career. And that was a real shock to the mining community because we see ourselves as the solution, not the problem.
That is indeed an eye-opening anecdote you shared with us. Now, you’ve drawn a distinction between oil & gas companies and mining. Why is that?
Well, we face the same issues in many ways. No matter how many resources the majors have available to them, they can’t find the quite right message to get that across to the public. So, if you go to an O&G or mining conference, there’s the same message going around there: how can we alert or inform the public and particularly the younger generation about the importance of this industry in their daily lives?
The difference is we’re here to stay for longer than the oil and gas industry, because we are needed for the transition.
Excellent! Well, Craig, you’re well placed to be able to help the industry deliver that, and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me today.
But don’t leave quite yet, because it’s time for me to put you in the hot seat. We’ve asked our social media followers to submit questions to our guests; I’ve picked this one for our ‘Ask Away’ segment. And the question is:
If the industry wants to adopt and present a more sustainable face, what are three things it could do?
Well, it’s a very big question but I’ll try my best.
I think the first area would look at responsibility: the mining industry needs to see itself as a responsible stakeholder, and that involves a new level of transparency into areas such as water use, land use that they are not really comfortable with at the moment.
Another area I would identify is digitalisation and automation. Really, maximizing the impact of fully committing to it.
Finally, there is a focus on people and communities that needs to be upped. They need to genuinely see what they are doing as important for the people in this community and design that from the concepts they just have in minds all the way through the end processing stage. And another important area is brownfield sites need to have the same care and attention because most of the world’s mines are existing and they need to be transformed.
Mmm. We’ve ended on a good note – transformation – and I’d love to pick that up in more detail, Craig, but we should move onto our next guest.
Craig Guthrie, editor-in-chief of Mining Magazine, thank you and join us again in our discussion in just a moment.
Well, Craig gave us a journalist’s point of view in understanding the bigger picture. Now we’re going to hear from someone who’s on the sharp end of helping companies deliver those sustainability plans that Craig’s just described.
We have Robert Pell who is the founder and CEO of Minviro, a British consultancy that helps global companies in the raw material sector to help, assess, quantify and mitigate their impacts.
Robert, please join me in the studio.
Robert, a warm welcome to Global Trends.
Thanks for having me.
So, now, your background is as a geologist, you’ve worked in the mining industry – and the company you founded, I understand it’s built around your PhD…
Yes – that’s right. So, we’re focused on quantifying the environmental impacts of producing raw materials for the low carbon economy, considering the CO2 intensity, taking into account different equipment, the energy involved in the processing plant, etc.
And you help companies understand the impact of those processes?
Yes, we help quantifying the impact but to also navigate their impact reduction roadmaps – helping them to identify the levers they can pull for their projects to get where they want to get in terms of sustainability.
Excellent, so it’s the trend that Craig described – working with those C-suite teams to translate their sustainability words into actions.
Clearly you saw an opportunity to tap into that with the business – so, has it been vindicated?
Yeah, absolutely. One of the key areas in which we’ve seen widespread adoption is with the materials that feed the low-carbon transition. So, think as lithium, nickel, cobalt.
We’ve worked with over 170 commercial projects since our foundation in 2019, and this is across the mining and the metals in the refining sector, but we also work with the consumers of those materials – so, one example is we’ve worked with Tesla to look at their impact in the supply chain for their batteries.
So, you’re upstream and downstream?
Excellent. Now, concerning the upstream work, we’ve heard from other guests about this huge demand for these materials to support the energy transition. It appears to be a dichotomy that we have this opportunity for decarbonisation, but we need these minerals and metals to support that. So, are we simply moving the problem elsewhere?
That’s a really good question, and that’s exactly what we are trying to solve when we do our lifecycle assessment. You’re taking a holistic approach, for example, when we’re working with a downstream battery manufacturer, or an EV manufacturer – there’s always the question of is electrification better than combustion engines? Now, we’re looking at a full history of production and use, and comparing those from an environmental standpoint, and not just for one impact category as well.
And what are some of those categories? Climate change is one, I presume?
Yes, so climate change is maybe the poster child of impact categories, but when you think about extracting materials from the ground and processing, there can be impacts on land transformation, on freshwater depletion; things impact toxicity or even impacts on biodiversity.
All right, and can you help us explain what’s involved in the LCA? Why are companies so fixated on it?
Good question! So, in principle what you’re doing when you conduct a lifecycle assessment, is you’re collating an inventory of all the material and energy inputs, as well as all the emission output - whether that’s land aera or water – and you are translating those into environmental impacts, that I mentioned before.
And now it matters in a number of ways for the companies that are doing these life cycle assessments: one, they want to do better, companies do want to do better; but also, there’s an economic driver for this. There’s risk for these companies if they don’t understand their environmental impacts. And we have seen this in other sectors, for example there’s now stranded assets for coal mines that used to have high value but now don’t have the value that they used to.
So, by doing a life cycle assessment you can really get a deep understanding of where your environmental risks, your projects might be for the future.
Well thank you for clarifying, beautiful. So, we talked to a guest in the last episode who gave the example of mines in Chile that are using desalination plants, rather than extracting freshwater. They’re relying on their own water; just as other companies are focusing on harnessing renewable power for themselves.
So, how do you incorporate factors like this in LCA?
Yeah, it’s always an important process. So, when we do LCAs for projects in the development stage, or ones already in operation, they’re always looking at different situations, like the desalination option that you mentioned versus just procuring freshwater. But this could also be the case for renewable energies at a sight whether they invest capital into a solar farm on site or whether they plug into the original goodness.
So, there’s really lots of scenarios that they need to compare, and we are able to basically highlight what the environmental potential of those different scenarios is, but also provide in the economic context as well.
Wonderful! Now, we’ve talked a lot about the upstream side of it, the companies extracting materials. They’ve got expectations from regulators and shareholders.
But looking downstream – you’ve mentioned your work with Tesla – how much of that downstream side is the pressure from consumers, now coming back up the chain? And how do you believe it might pan out over the next few years?
Yeah, we’re certainly seeing more pressure coming from downstream. I mentioned Tesla, but the battery ecosystem’s quite a front runner in general. There are regulations that are evolving in EU such as carbon foot printing requirements, you’ll need to disclose the carbon intensity of your battery. And will also be upper limits, on what you can have in terms of carbon intensity of your battery, including the value chain where it came from. And that would include where did the lithium come from, where the nickel came from.
And so, there is really a greater deal of pressure to understand the impact in the supply chains and batteries are the leading technology, but we’re seeing the same parameters and requirements for a range of other technologies as well.
And so, what are some of the other uses you’re having to consider for clients?
Well, you are seeing a trend as whether the technologies that arefor low carbon transition – we have worked with photovoltaics, wind sector, other parts of EVs – so some of them close to my heart are electric motors, and the rare earths, are going to (that’s where I did my PhD on initially), and sometimes things like platinum group elements which are going to be key for the hydrogen transition...
But we already focus on understanding the impact of producing the raw materials and that is because when you look at the low carbon transition it really is sensitive to focus on the raw materials that feed it.
So, if we are going to really have an ultimate, sustainable, low carbon economy, we are going to make sure that we need to produce these raw materials in a sustainable fashion.
Robert, you have given us an overview of your business, so thank you so much. But before we go into the discussion, it’s time to move to our ‘Ask Away’ segment.
I’m going to put a question to you from our social media feeds…let’s try this one. Are you ready?
I am ready.
Alright! So, how will this trend for LCA develop over the next 5-10 years?
If I paraphrase that question: will your business need to change to cope with the demand for ESG assessments?
Well, it’s a good question in this fast-evolving sector. We’re both technology and consultancy. We have the technology part of the business because traditionally consultancy can take, you know, up to six months to deliver these LCAs. Now, that’s really not quick enough for what the industry demands today, so we’ve built tools that can help companies ultimate and fast-track some of these processes, and so if I was going to predict the future of the LCA market, it’s going to be more technology, more data stream, and more high-resolution reporting.
Thank you, Robert – good luck with Minviro, and come back to join us in the discussion in just a few moments.
And there you have it: an overview of sustainability, as it applies in the modern mining world.
Now, let’s go back to our guests for our studio discussion: Trends & Talks.
Craig, Robert, let’s have you back in the studio!
And we’ve got a third guest to introduce, too:
Fabio Novelli. the founder, president and CEO of NTE Process, a technology and process consultancy that designs, builds integrated bulk materials, handling a process automation system since 1998. After 25 years, he masters the business of industrial process solutions.
Fabio, come and join me!
Warm welcome Fabio!
And gentlemen, it’s lovely to have you back. I am delighted that we all chose to match with a blue shirt for this topic, which is incredibly appropriate.
Now, let’s go to Fabio: you’ve been undoubtedly listening to Craig and Robert. Now’s your chance to join in the discussion, as we go into our wrap up Trends & Talks.
What I’d like to hear from each of you is this: how can companies stick to their sustainability goals and succeed in keeping all their stakeholders happy?
Fabio, let’s hear from you first, and I think you are particularly interesting since your company’s been working with BKT to help them implement sustainable practices, is that right?
Yes, Saana, that’s right. NTE’s focus is design, implementation, innovation in industrial plants. BKT has set some clear sustainability goals – and most big corporations are doing the same.
And they’ve been working with you on, I believe, a new tire plant. Is that right?
Yes, a tire and carbon plant production in Bhuj, in India, which produces off-highway tires, they fixed on sustainability objectives such as packaging reduction, CO2 reduction, energy reduction, and reduction inputs from fossil fuel.
For example, rather than moving raw materials around the plant in polypropylene bulk bags, we’ve implemented the use of reusable mobile silos.
There’s also a lot of energy expended in moving these raw materials around the plant. In the last five years, we developed a new patented technology to help with energy reduction.
Overall, we looked for every opportunity to reduce not just energy, but energy waste – we set up a goal of a 70% reduction. Key for achieving this was a technology called Eco Dense-Tronic. When implemented at Bhuj, this will save more than 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
We’ve got to remember than we need to be sustainable throughout the chain, in the extraction and processing. So, it means when companies choose their suppliers, they need to be sure that there’s the same attention and focus on sustainability.
Excellent, a great start to our discussion, Fabio, thank you.
Robert, do you have any client examples you can draw on here?
Yes, we have many examples. One example is when we explored alternative energy solutions at mining operations, specifically at processing plants.
If we look at batteries, we are currently exploring the remanufacture of batteries which should be typically used for EV applications and use for stationary storage. We are exploring the environmental impact benefits of such activity.
Another example is we have recently been working with some major alumina producers to measure their current environmental impacts and simulate scenarios to deal with waste in different ways. Specifically, looking at refractory waste products and seeing how there can be input materials in other sectors like the cement sector.
With 170 projects completed, I knew you’d be able to come up with some great example – thank you, Robert!
Over to you Craig, for the final word…
Well, I think one good example would be the increasing use of trolley assist systems, to replace the use of diesel haul trucks. That’s really having a really big impact on emissions from operations.
I wish we had time to open up this discussion in greater detail – I feel there’s a lot more that the three of you could add!
Thank you for joining us today on Global Trends and sharing your knowledge and experience with our audience. Craig Guthrie of Mining Magazine, Robert Pell of Minviro, and Fabio Novelli of NTE – it’s been a pleasure talking to you today!
If you watched the first episode you’ll remember it’s time for another interactive session! This is ‘Quiz You Up’, the segment where we invite you, dear viewers, to engage with us. Today, we’re going to put the following question to you, on social media – and we want you to answer it.
So, first, no doubt you’ll want to know the answer to last month’s question, where we asked you:
How much faster is it, potentially, to obtain data using drones to inspect mining sites rather than using traditional methods?
And the answer is:
20x! The use of drones for mine surveys allows for more rapid data collection across the site, nearly over 20x faster than using traditional methods carried out by personnel on the ground.
So, did you get it right? I saw there’s more than a few who did, looking at those feeds! Congratulations to you!
So, who’s going to go for two out of two? Let’s see about this month’s question:
Both Craig and Robert talked about the importance of lithium as we transition into a low carbon energy economy. So, what I am going to ask you for this episode’s “Quiz You Up” is:
How much does the International Energy Agency predicts lithium demand will grow by 2050?
A slightly more difficult question, perhaps? But don’t worry, we’ll give the answer next time!
So there you have it: Global Trends, episode 2, sustainability. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for watching…we’ll see you next time, when our topic will be Alternative Energies.