The mining sector and environmental responsibility may be two concepts that are totally at odds with each other. Still, the global mining industry is doing its best to clean up its act. This can be seen in how many of the world’s mining companies are working to decarbonize their operations, improve their working practices, reduce the extraction of coal and several other minerals, and even shift towards the use of renewable fuels.
Tale of the tape
While companies are racing to spruce up the way they work, the effort they have expended is barely even the tip of the iceberg. Currently, the global mining industry is responsible for up to 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions, widespread leaching of harmful chemicals into soil and water, a considerable loss of plant and animal life, and extensive deforestation leading to soil erosion.
Despite all this, the World Bank stated in a recent report that the mining sector would need to play a major role to achieve a low-carbon future. This is due to the increasing need for minerals like nickel, palladium, and platinum in the manufacture of energy storage technologies and zero-carbon electric vehicles.
Also, numerous renewable power generation methods like wind turbines and solar panels require the use of copper and coltan. But experts worry that conventional mining practices will jeopardize any benefit these may have.
Volvo: Don’t panic, it’s electric
Fortunately, the construction arm of Swedish automaker Volvo has been running the world’s first electric quarry for the past three years. Using its electric-powered and technically autonomous machinery, Volvo Construction Equipment has cut greenhouse emissions down by 98% at its mining facility on the outskirts of Gothenburg.
Volvo’s significant investment in the development of autonomous vehicles for the mining industry is in keeping with its net-zero targets. Indeed, the company hopes that its customers will soon be operating fully autonomous mining quarries, as seen in its current pilot scheme in Switzerland as well as its in-country trials in Sweden.
The company opened its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Test Lab at its main facility in Eskistuna towards the end of 2021. It will be delivering its new line of compact electric loaders to the market by the end of this year.
Clearwell: Bringing clean water into the equation
Volvo is not the only Swedish company that’s helping the mining industry rethink its practices where the environment is concerned. For example, Clearwell, a sustainability-driven enterprise, is helping mitigate the impact that water shortages have on mining.
The company’s incredibly simple solution involves renting out metal containers that mining firms can use to collect wastewater. Inside these containers, plasma-treated steel mesh filters with nano-fiber membranes can strain contaminants from the water, making it clean enough to reuse.
In doing so, mining companies’ costs in terms of fuel consumption through transportation are significantly reduced, which means that their carbon footprint also becomes smaller. Likewise, hazardous leaks are avoided. It may take some time before the company rolls out its method beyond Swedish borders, but it is a solution that will help the industry a great deal.