Salt Lake City: The Bingham Canyon Mine, more commonly known as Kennecott Copper Mine among locals, is an open-pit mining operation extracting a large porphyry copper deposit southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Oquirrh Mountains. The mine is the largest man-made excavation in the world and is considered to have produced more copper than any other mine in history.

Report | 2019

Low-Carbon Metals for a Low-Carbon World

A New Energy Paradigm for Mines

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Industrial metals are critical to a clean and just energy transition, but their production accounts for over 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, advances in renewable energy technology have made it possible for mines and metal producers to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint while improving financial performance, increasing market resilience, and protecting the health of miners from toxins in fossil fuels.

Using technoeconomic models anchored in real-world case examples, RMI finds that market-ready renewable energy technology offers a compelling value proposition to many, if not most, mine sites around the world. Based on energy data from five mineral-rich countries, our analysis suggests that mines can achieve up to 45 percent renewable electricity with strong returns on their investments that reduce risk exposure.Some of the world’s largest mining companies are already rushing to capitalize on renewable energy, making the metals industry an essential part of the solution to the global climate emergency. Meanwhile, firms that continue business-as-usual energy practices are already facing mounting dangers from rising energy prices, impact-conscious investors, and the direct costs of a changing climate.

Capping global warming at 1.5°C—the target agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement—will require mines and metals producers to achieve near net zero emissions by 2050. This report outlines the first steps that the industry must take to reach this goal while remaining accountable to shareholders and future generations alike.