A projection of future energy and greenhouse gas emissions intensity from copper mining

Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
23rd World Mining Congress 2013 Proceedings, 2013, pp. 1 - 14
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In this study, we develop a detailed model of the likely future carbon footprint of primary copper supply. We develop a peak copper production model, based on a detailed copper resource data set, and combine this with a comprehensive life cycle assessment model of copper mining and milling to predict greenhouse gas emission rates and intensities of Australian and global copper production up to 2100. By establishing a quantitative prediction of both copper production and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions of Australian and global copper industry, we then analysed the emissions intensity of various energy input scenarios, such as business-as-usual, solar thermal electricity and solar thermal electricity with biodiesel. The Australian Government has an aspirational goal for long-term greenhouse gas emissions of an 80% reduction from the 2000 level by 2050. For the copper sector, this means moving from about 12.6 Mt CO2e in 2000 to a goal of some 2.52 Mt CO2e in 2050 (assuming equal emissions reductions across the economy). Based on the energy sources modelled, only the solar thermal plus biodiesel scenario was capable of achieving this goal at about 0.15 Mt CO2e, since the solar thermal alone scenario still includes normal petro-diesel as a major source of emissions. Overall, it is clear that there are abundant resources which can meet expected long-term copper demands, the critical issue is more the carbon (and environmental) footprint of different copper supplies and use rather than how much is available for mining. It is clear that the switch to renewable energy can have a profound impact on the carbon intensity of copper supply, even allowing for increased energy intensity as ore grades decline, and a complete conversion to renewable energy will position the copper sector to meet existing annual greenhouse gas emissions targets and goals.
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