ICA member, Antofagasta Minerals, is taking action to decarbonize its operations. The company has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, with an interim target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent by 2025 (from a 2020 baseline). To do so, Antofagasta has focused its efforts on implementing renewable energy systems at its mine sites. All of Antofagasta’s copper production is completely operated by renewable energy.
“We have committed to be carbon neutral by 2050, or earlier if the technology permits it. We’re clear that we need to reduce our emissions and take on bigger commitments.”—René Aguilar, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability.
Renewable Energy at All Mine Sites
Antofagasta began the transition to renewable energy at Minera Zaldívar as early as 2018 when it signed a power plant supply agreement for a combination of hydro, solar and wind power. The site began operating on 100 percent renewable energy in July 2020. The company’s Los Pelambres site began integrating renewable energy sources even earlier when it signed its first wind power contract in 2014. By 2020, approximately 30 percent of its energy needs came from renewables. As a result, the company reduced carbon emissions at the two sites by an approximately 375,000 tCO2e in 2021.
The success of these initiatives led Antofagasta to begin powering its copper production at Minera Antucoya and Minera Centinela with 100 percent renewable energy at the beginning of 2022. The Los Pelambres mine, Antofagasta’s leading operation, concluded its transition to 100 percent renewable power sources earlier this year.
Energy is Key to Meeting Decarbonization Goals
Antofagasta’s shift to renewable energy is one of many steps the company is taking to achieve carbon neutrality. Antofagasta’s decarbonization strategy focuses on five key pillars: resilience to climate change, reduction of GHG emissions, efficient resource use, management of the environment and biodiversity, and integration of stakeholders. In addition to its own strategic goals, the company also faces increased requirements from the government regarding energy efficiency. Chile, where Antofagasta’s mine sites are located, enacted a new energy efficiency law in 2021 requiring industrial energy users to reduce energy use by at least four percent over a five-year period. Antofagasta is continuing to invest in renewable energy sources and optimize operations to meet its energy and wider decarbonization goals.
Energy usage represents almost 20 percent of Antofagasta’s operating costs with about 13 percent of those costs related to electrification and 7 percent connected to fuel costs, particularly diesel. To optimize energy usage at its mine sites, the company is implementing new processes as part of its updated energy policy to monitor energy use at various stages of the mining process, as well as to track corresponding Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Through its improved energy portal, management and key decision makers have access to this data, as well as to important energy intensity indicators. Increased monitoring capabilities alongside significant investment in renewable energy sources will continue to allow the company to reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy usage, making energy-efficiency and net-zero goals a feasible reality.
Introducing Hydrogen to the Energy Mix
In addition, Antofagasta is considering green hydrogen and ammonia to address its transportation-related emissions and energy usage to lower Scope 1 and 3 emissions. Green hydrogen is produced from water using renewable energy sources to split the water molecule to release the hydrogen.
The company is working with the Hydra Consortium, a group combining Antofagasta, Engie, Mining3, CSIRO Chile, and Mitsubishi and Company—among others—and is already testing a hydrogen fuel cell and battery powertrain propulsion system at Antofagasta’s Centinela mine. The pilot test assesses the powertrain’s performance under real mining conditions, including higher altitudes with dust suspension. Recognized by the British-Chilean Chamber of Commerce, the initiative received the Environmental Innovation prize in the Innovation in Energy Management category. Green hydrogen’s impact on Antofagasta’s operations will be most noticeable at the Centinela site, which uses the most diesel fuel with more than 120 mine haul trucks operating at 7 open pits. The hydrogen initiative at Centinela will further complement the electric-powered trolley assist systems planned for Los Pelambres and possible battery-powered trucks at the company’s Antucoya site.
In addition to its mine site operations, the company is developing a project to introduce green hydrogen fuel to locomotives in its FCAB transport division. These trains connect its rail cargo services on the Pacific coast to its mining operations. Upon implementation, FCAB could become the first cargo transport company in South America to have hydrogen-powered trains. The project is a collaboration with Chile’s Energy Sustainability Agency’s Green Hydrogen Accelerator. By implementing renewable energy sources at its mine sites and using clean energy to power alternative sources of fuel, Antofagasta will continue to use innovative practices to decarbonize its operations and meet its 2050 net-zero goals.
About Antofagasta plc
Antofagasta plc is committed to developing mining for a better future. Headquartered in Santiago, Chile, Antofagasta has four copper mining operations across Chile at Centinela, Los Pelambres, Antucoya and Zaldívar. Antofagasta’s strategy is built around five pillars: people, safety and sustainability, competitiveness, growth and innovation. For more information visit https://www.antofagasta.co.uk/.
About the International Copper Association
The International Copper Association (ICA) brings together the global copper industry to develop and defend markets for copper and make a positive contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICA has offices in three primary regions: Asia, Europe and North America. ICA and its Copper Alliance® partners are active in more than 60 countries worldwide.