Editorial Feature

Green Mining Market: Developments and Prospects

Mining is one of the world’s most polluting industries. Not only does it contribute a considerable portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it also has various negative impacts on social and environmental systems. Mining, however, continues to be a vitally important industry, as the continually growing sectors of technology and electronics rely heavily on the metals and minerals obtained via mining processes.

green mining

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To overcome mining’s negative impact on the environment, scientists have developed green mining - the implementation of technologies and processes that limit the environmental impact of mining. Here, we discuss how green mining is used, the industry’s current trends, the state of the current global market, and how it may develop in the future.

Application Areas of Green Mining

The main application of green mining is replacing traditional mining methods with those less harmful to the environment. Traditional mining activities, such as exploration, operation, maintenance, and even site construction and transportation, can negatively impact the environment and neighboring social systems in numerous direct and indirect ways. In addition, mine abandonment and repurposing are also sources of negative environmental impact.

The release of carbon emissions is one of the most significant environmental concerns associated with mining. The global mining industry currently produces around 1.9 to 5.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) of greenhouse gas emissions each year - contributing to around 8% of the global carbon footprint.

Traditional mining operations contribute to deforestation, soil contamination, soil erosion, air pollution, noise pollution, and contamination of water sources.

Green mining has been established to shift the mining industry towards greener processes and limit the industry’s impact on the environment. Emissions that are generated from mining fall into one of three categories:

  • Scope 1 emissions which come from the use of diesel
  • Scope 2 emissions from electricity generation
  • Scope 3 emissions generated from the supply chain and transportation.

Green mining is an umbrella term for various technology, processes, and interventions that tackle emissions from all three categories.

Hot Topics in Green Mining

Shifting from fossil fuels to electric energy to power mining operations is one of the most important current topics in green mining. Switching to green electricity is a powerful method for instantly reducing the level of carbon emissions produced by mining. It is estimated that switching to green electricity can drop 30 to 50% of scope 2 emissions.

Similarly, replacing fossil-fueled vehicles with electric vehicles is another hot topic in green mining as it has a significant potential to reduce carbon emissions drastically. The use of electric vehicles can reduce total mining emissions by half. Mining relies heavily on the use of numerous vehicles. They are needed to transport goods and workers, conduct mining, and perform maintenance and repair work.

Loaders, for example, are used in around 95% of underground metal mines. These vehicles are vital to moving tons of ore at a time. These vehicles are traditionally fueled by diesel, making them a significant source of carbon emissions. Since this pollution is being released underground, it also requires vast amounts energy to power ventilation systems.

Recently, the first hybrid-electric loader for underground mining was developed. The hybrid engine decreases the volume of noxious gas emissions by 40 to 70% and reduces breathable combustible dust emissions by 95%.

Due to the decreased need for ventilation, a further 20 to 40% reduction in energy use can be obtained by reducing ventilation systems to meet the needs of the lower emissions vehicles.

Current Global Market of Green Mining

The global green mining market was valued at $11 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.9% through 2027, to reach a valuation of $17.6 billion. Over this period, the European market is expected to show the fastest growth of 15%, making it the most dominant region by 2027. Germany, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom are currently and expected to continue to be the main players in the global industry.

Growth in the sector is mainly powered by the growing concern over environmental issues coupled with increasing market regulations to reduce emissions. Key players in the global market include BHP Billiton, Anglo American PLC, Rio Tinto Group, VALE S.A., Glencore PLC, Tata Steel Limited, Jiangxi Copper Corporation Limited, Dundee Precious Metals, and Liebherr.

Future Directions for Green Mining

Switching to clean energy sources will be a significant trend in green mining in the coming years. Many mining companies are exploring how to power their operations with renewable energy. Given the growth, rapid technological development, and investment in the renewable energy sector, the mining industry can leverage innovation to reduce emissions from its operations. However, a significant hurdle still needs to be solved, limiting the extent to which the mining sector will adopt renewable power unless it is overcome.

Renewable power is often intermittent. This is a key concern for mining as operations require vast amounts of energy around the clock, with dangerous repercussions if power were to be cut. Sunlight and wind power, for example, cannot be relied on to generate power around the clock. So far, this has been a limiting factor in adopting renewable energy for mining operations.

The future of mining will likely leverage ongoing developments in renewable energy storage. Research teams are currently developing batteries with enough capacity to store vast amounts of excess energy generated by renewable sources. This energy can then be used when energy generation is low.

In recent years, we have seen technological advancements that convert surplus energy into hydrogen power, which can be stored and used when renewable sources do not produce sufficient power.

The Future of the Green Mining Market

The green mining market will be increasingly important over the next decade as the mining industry strives to reduce its emissions.

Technology advancements in renewable energy and energy storage, as well as electric vehicles, will feed into the green mining market, helping to establish its global footprint further. The sector will be critical to reducing the emissions of one of the world’s most polluting sector.

References and Further Reading

Green Mining Market by Type [online]. Markets and Markets. Available at: https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/green-mining-market-142994284.html

Haddaway, N.R. et al. (2019) Evidence of the impacts of metal mining and the effectiveness of mining mitigation measures on social–ecological systems in Arctic and boreal regions: A systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence, 8(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13750-019-0152-8.

Heidi Vella. (2013) Green technologies: making mining more sustainable and energy efficient [online]. Mining Technology. Available at: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/feature-green-technologies-sustainable-energy-efficient/

Oxford scientists show how green mining could pave the way to net zero and provide the metals we need for a sustainable future [online]. University of Oxford. Available at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-06-29-oxford-scientists-show-how-green-mining-could-pave-way-net-zero-and-provide-metals

Peter Johnson. (2022) Miners are cutting CO2 emissions in half by switching to electric vehicles for extracting critical minerals [online]. Electrek. Available at: https://electrek.co/2022/10/13/miners-cut-co2-emissions-in-half-switching-electric-vehicles/

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.

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