Australian mining leads on cutting emissions through technology

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The Australian Government’s energy technology roadmap offers a practical focus on mobilising an array of technologies that can sustainably support a net zero emissions future.

Australia’s resources sector is at the forefront of developing and deploying low emissions technologies, which are central to Australian and global efforts to address climate change.

Technology is also a key focus of the MCA climate action plan released earlier this year.

Critically, the industry will develop the minerals required for a low emissions future including aluminium, copper, nickel, zinc, iron, uranium, base metals, lithium, minerals sands, rare earths and others.

And Australian resources companies are already developing and trialling a number of the technologies identified in the roadmap’s priority list. For example:

  • The lowest cost clean hydrogen is produced from gasified coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS), and is currently being developed through the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project in Victoria using Latrobe Valley brown coal and CCS
  • Glencore’s CTSCo project at Millmerran power station in Queensland is demonstrating the potential of CCS to reduce emissions from Australia’s coal power stations, which still provide around 65 per cent of  Australia’s electricity. This project also provides the basis for a carbon storage hub for existing and emerging industries in Queensland such as hydrogen
  • Remote mining sites around the country are increasingly moving to hybrid energy systems incorporating renewables and storage along with existing diesel generation
  • Increased electrification of mines is being accompanied by lower emission energy sources and large-scale electric vehicles
  • The move towards lower carbon steel and aluminium is being actively supported by Australia’s iron ore and bauxite miners working with large global steel and aluminium producers and technology companies to deliver technologies which will drive significant reductions in greenhouse emissions
  • Mine sites across Australia will continue to reduce energy costs and emissions through energy efficiency by investing in energy audits and process improvements such as automation, more efficient equipment, technology and maintenance.

The inclusion of small modular reactors (SMRs) on the roadmap’s watching brief list is commendable, given the emergence of this leading-edge nuclear technology in North America and Europe in readiness for commercial deployment in the next decade.

Australia’s uranium producers already contribute to lower emissions by supplying fuel for global nuclear power generation.

Continued recognition of energy technologies like coal, gas, solar and wind shows the government will let the market determine which technologies should be supported by investment, except in the case of a shortage in power generation or to secure jobs in key industries. This is a welcome development.

Adoption of the best available technology will help Australia play its part in rapidly reducing emissions, while providing energy security so key industries such as mining and minerals processing remain internationally competitive and provide new highly skilled, highly-paid jobs in regional Australia.

Tania Constable is the chief executive of the MCA.

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