Pioneering the Green Push in an Evolving Mining IndustryBy Karin Dilge | Tue, 05/31/2022 - 16:47
Q: What does the road to zero carbon look like for a mining company and what solutions could Wood provide to clients regarding a sustainable operation?
A: Wood is a multidisciplinary consultancy. We serve the mining industry in Mexico but we also serve many other businesses with global operations. This allows us to bring the best industry practices to the Mexican mining market. Wood has a broad approach, taking advantage of foreign technologies and applying them in Mexico. For example, we worked to bring renewable, lower-carbon energy to mining clients and have started implementing that in the oil and gas industry. The company also works on aquatic and terrestrial restoration, as well as habitat restoration, which contribute to zero-carbon initiatives. Finally, we also carry out various socio-economic studies. We consider all these aspects from concept to closure for mining projects. Wood is investing in new technologies to introduce carbon capture initiatives to all our global clients. Overall, there is a big push toward decarbonization coming from these companies.
Q: What has been the Mexican mining market’s response to Wood’s offer?
A: The response has been mixed; however, we see that our Mexican clients are moving toward meeting some global standards and guidelines regarding sustainable mining practices. Two of our clients, one of which is a major Mexican player with local capital, are testing these technologies. The client that operates with foreign capital, mainly from the UK, Canada and the US, has operations in Mexico and is interested in implementing Wood’s net-zero goal. As consultants, we are pushing our clients to think about the environment and to evolve with not only regulations but also the world surrounding them, for example by using renewable energy.
Q: How does Wood convince clients about the importance of having a sustainable mining operation?
A: Measures to become sustainable are expensive in the short run. However, if you show the client the overall solution for the entire life span of the mine using net present value (NPV), most will react favorably. One example is managing the disposal of tailings. Especially in Mexico, Wood is a pioneer in the design and operation of tailings storage facilities and dry stacks. In some Mexican regions, this technology is extremely favorable. If for some clients the CAPEX is too high, we outline the overall benefit of adopting this more environmentally friendly method of storing tailings. A new global tailings standard released in 2020 by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) helped to further push clients toward more sustainable forms of operating.
Q: Why should mining companies adopt renewable energy generation solutions?
A: Mining companies consume a lot of energy. Renewable energy such as solar and wind power, or more environmentally friendly forms of energy such as natural gas, are proven technologies that can be applied to mining operations. Miners can save on energy costs and gain a more efficient and reliable electricity supply. Eventually, clients can provide energy to the towns surrounding them as well.
Q: How is Wood helping its clients avoid problems regarding permits being revoked because of Indigenous communities’ rights over the land?
A: Certainty is extremely important for the overall success of any mining project, whether greenfield developments or brownfield expansions, and community relations are extremely important in this process. In Mexico, mining projects have been halted due to poor community relations. We offer services at the genesis of mining operations that help companies build a positive relationship with communities. Right now, we are building a team in Mexico, almost exclusively engineers and geologists. There are around seven people working in our Chihuahua office but we are already looking to employ community relations specialists as well as people with expertise in environmental support.
Q: How is Wood planning to expand its operations southward in Mexico?
A: Our office in Mexico was long overdue. Having worked in the Mexican mining sector for over 15 years, we were looking to open an office in a strategic location. We considered opening the office in Leon, Durango and Jalisco before finally deciding on Chihuahua. However, there are opportunities for expansion over the next five years. Given the current price of commodities, the world is starving for more resources. The boom in renewable energy is going to result in more work for mining companies and more work for us by proxy. Wood has also witnessed an increase in mining activity in Mexico.
Historically, Mexico has always been a mining country; it is the largest silver producer in the world. Mexico also produces 30 percent of the world’s fluoride, which is used in glass, toothpaste and stainless steel, among other products. Going forward, we want to be closer to our clients so that we can serve them better. We also want to give back to the country that has given us so much work, so we are training the local population. We have big plans for Mexico.
Q: What is the importance of training for Wood in its mission to achieve these goals?
A: One important part of our success is people. It is difficult to get good people, so Wood trains its employees to adopt its approach. What we really want is for our operations in every country to grow both technologically and professionally. We can adopt practices in one place and then apply this new knowledge somewhere else, such as in the Mexican market. I would like to see environmentally friendly practices brought here and I hope a more sustainable mindset can prosper too. In the US and Canada, regulations help us meet our sustainability goals. However, in jurisdictions where the regulations are a little bit looser, we must do this ourselves. We need to train our people to do the right thing for the environment.
Wood is a global leader in engineering and consultancy across energy and the built environment, helping to unlock solutions to some of the world’s most critical challenges. We provide consulting, projects and operations solutions in more than 60 countries, employing around 40,000 people.