Mexican Mining Operations Aim for Net ZeroBy Cas Biekmann | Mon, 05/03/2021 - 12:51
Net zero ambitions, decarbonization and clean energy are no longer vague buzzwords for Mexico’s mining industry. Companies have taken serious steps to impulse their own sustainability through various avenues, this includes addressing their energy supply. Despite Mexico’s private energy industry facing more barriers than it has in years, the progress continues.
On April 23, Torex Gold announced it had signed a flexible lease agreement for an 8.5MW containerized solar solution for its El Limón-Guajes mine in Guerrero, provided by the Norwegian Scatec. Renewables Now has reported that the project will reduce Torex’s scope 2 greenhouse emissions by up to 8.6 percent from a 2019 baseline, while saving a large amount of energy costs. Even though receiving the necessary permits to operate the solar plant could be tricky during a period in time where the issuing of such permissions has slowed down drastically, Torex sees the move as viable.
Leading precious metals producer Newmont is looking toward getting its mining operations powered by wind and solar energy, following its plans to decarbonize completely by 2050. However, CEO Tom Palmer sees the current government’s strategy to strengthen CFE at the cost of private renewable production as problematic: “We are already seeing examples in some of the jurisdictions in which we operate where governments are supporting state-owned enterprises which are not the most energy efficient sources of [power] and preventing renewables coming into the system,” Palmer told BNAmericas.
Fresnillo also sees the reforms in the energy industry slowing down its progress. CEO Octavio Alvídrez even suggested the company might have to resort to legal action to protect its strategy switching to wind energy, such as through connection with a wind farm called Las Mesas.
Other companies look toward natural gas, which despite its emissions does foster considerably cleaner operations compared to other traditional fuels. “Natural gas might be the least 'sexy' option for decarbonization in mining but liquefied natural gas (LNG) will still be an important bridge technology,” said Jason Green, President and CTO at GFS Corp at Mexico Mining Forum. BNAmericas reported that First Majestic Silver moved away from diesel to power its Mexican operations. Now, the company utilizes an 12.4MW LNG power plant at its Santa Elena mine, which powers 85 percent of the operation.
French multinational utility Engie uses green hydrogen to target large mining equipment, offering another opportunity for operators to decarbonize. Koen Langie, Head of Mining Program at Engie’s Hydrogen Business Unit explained that development of the technology is going swiftly at Mexico Mining Forum: “According to our simulations, hydrogen solutions will be competitive with diesel in 2025. Mining can switch to hydrogen without increasing costs and improving productivity and environmental practices,” he said. In addition, Langie explained that Engie combines the technology with battery storage to provide a fast response and charge.