To combat climate change, copper giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. is switching to electric or hydrogen power for its fleet of diesel trucks and other gear, according to Chief Executive Richard Adkerson, in an interview with Reuters Next.
The mining sector supplies copper, lithium, and other building blocks for renewable technology while contributing to global warming. Haul trucks capable of moving 400 tonnes of dirt each load are only some of the hundreds of pieces of equipment owned by Freeport’s mining company. This added 180 million gallons of diesel to Freeport’s scope one (direct) emissions last year.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) fuelled by green hydrogen and battery power were converted in just 130 days by FFI from an existing fleet of 221 t class Terex Unit Rig MT4400 AC electric drive trucks. It is not feasible to test this FCEV hydrogen fuel cell truck until late 2022 at Fortescue iron ore mines because of its weight and size restrictions at the Hazelmere, Perth testing facility. However, FFI hopes to test this FCEV hydrogen fuel cell truck and a 240-ton battery-electric truck under development in a project with Williams Advanced Engineering by the end of that year. Batteries that will power WAE’s electric truck are being tested before they are tested at FMG’s Pilbara mining operations. Fast-charging units that use renewable energy from PEC – Pilbara Energy Connect – will also be developed as part of the project.
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Trucks driven by electric and hydrogen are being tested, as are alternative fuels for the coal-fired power plant in Indonesia, where the world’s second-biggest copper mine is being operated. Rio Tinto, BHP Group, and other mining companies participate in the Charge on Innovation Challenge to improve mine site electrification. The South American hydrogen fuel consortium will conduct trials of Komatsu and Caterpillar diesel-electric vehicles next year (CAT.N).
It’s not yet apparent how Freeport’s yearly operating expenses would alter when the whole fleet is switched to renewable energy. In contrast, Freeport CEO Adkerson, who has held the position since 2003, claimed it was “very vital” to reduce emissions. According to him, climate change is causing more severe weather, and mining copper is causing emissions when the metal is required for green energy solutions.
ICMM, an industry trade body led by Adkerson, has established a target of net-zero direct and indirect carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner for all members – including Freeport – in part by retiring diesel-powered equipment. Repurposing waste rock from its mines might provide as much as 10 billion pounds of copper for Freeport. Asked how much copper may be generated with this process in the future, Adkerson said that “Our technical staff is pretty enthused about it.” One of Freeport’s smelters in Spain is recovering electrical trash. Adkerson said the corporation likes to run massive mines, and the operation is not likely to be a key emphasis for the company.
As a result of what I predict will be a severe shortage of copper, that (copper) scrap will be required.” It’s not something that Freeport sees as commercial potential.