As the world becomes increasingly digitized and reliant on technology, the demand for copper continues to grow. Copper is used in everything from smartphones to power grids, and the mining and production of this valuable metal has a significant environmental impact. However, thanks to recent innovations in mining and production technology, we may be able to meet this growing demand without harming the environment.
Companies engaged in copper exploration are currently leading the charge toward a greener future for the industry. One such company is Rio Tinto, which has been working on developing a new method of extracting copper from ore that doesn’t require smelting. Smelting is a process that releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so eliminating it would be a major step forward in terms of reducing the environmental impact of copper mining.
Another great example is Solaris Resources (TSX:SLS) which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Electric Corporation of Ecuador (“CELEC EP”) to supply low-cost, locally sourced hydroelectric power to the Warintza Project (“Warintza” or “the Project”) in southeastern Ecuador.
CELEC EP will source hydroelectric power from the National Transmission System in Ecuador to provide primary power required for the Warintza Project. This initiative is consistent with the “Ecuador Zero Carbon Program” developed by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition and Solaris was the first mining signatory of September 2021.
Solaris wants to make the most of this efficient, renewable, and cheap energy source by investigating how to electrify infrastructure like mobile mining equipment (e.g., drills, trucks), goods transportation (including gravity-assisted solutions), and processing and pumping systems.
Daniel Earle, President & CEO, commented in a press release: “The MOU with CELEC supports our vision to study the potential for electrified operations that maximize the structural benefits of the Warintza Project within an infrastructure-rich mining district with the aim of lowering costs, increasing efficiencies, reducing emissions, and broadly positioning the Project as a leading development opportunity across a range of financial and ESG metrics in the industry.”
Supplying power for the infrastructure and mining activities at Warintza with renewable energy will help to offset the environmental impact of the project, and could set a precedent for other mines in the area.
Other companies have also looked at switching transportation to a net-zero emissions model, in which electric vehicles are powered by renewable energy sources. This would not only reduce emissions from the mining process itself, but also from the transportation of copper ore to processing plants.
Considering copper is one of the key elements powering the transition to renewable energy, it’s encouraging to see the exploration and production industry working hard to reduce its environmental impact. With continued research and development, companies like Solaris Resources are driving the mission toward net-zero forward faster than ever.