BHP on course to cut emissions by 30% despite expected uptick this year

The company is also increasing investment focus on renewable energy minerals such as copper. Photo: File

The company is also increasing investment focus on renewable energy minerals such as copper. Photo: File

Published Jun 27, 2024


BHP says its emissions will slightly increase this year due to organic growth although it is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 30% in the next six years as it adopts emission reduction technologies in steel making and enhances the quality of iron ore and coal it produces.

The company, which is also increasing investment focus on renewable energy minerals such as copper, has adopted a non-linear strategy that “requires significant effort to overcome organic growth and technology challenges” in its decarbonisation journey.

Graham Winkelman, BHP’s vice-president for climate, said yesterday that the Australian resource giant was “on track to reduce our operational GHG emissions (including) scopes 1 and 2 from our operated assets by at least 30%” by 2023 from its 2020 levels.

This comes as PwC noted in its Global Mine Report released on Tuesday that “sustainability considerations have been a pivotal element in transaction decisions” by the world’s Top 40 mining companies that are topped by BHP.

While it has shelved its bid for Anglo American’s copper assets, BHP last year acquired Oz Minerals, a copper asset, reflecting its increased focus on metals contributing to a cleaner energy environment.

“In their quest to decarbonise, mining companies are investing in renewable energy projects. Such projects bolster their sustainability profiles and help them gain greater control over one of their most significant operational costs,” added PwC in its latest report.

For BHP, said Dan Heal, vice-president for operational decarbonisation minerals for Australia, the BMA metallurgical coal mine “had one of the lowest GHG emissions intensity footprints” among its global competitors.

BHP said last year that it was sinking up to $4 billion (R73bn) into its carbon reduction initiatives over the next six years. The company invested as much as $122 million on carbon emission reduction initiatives in the past year while it is bumping up usage of solar energy at the copper operations in Chile.

“Our current open-cut mines now employ direct, site-specific industry best practice measurement of their fugitive emissions. Our aim is to identify the potential for emerging technologies to improve measurement,” said Heal.

At BHP’s only underground steel-making coal mine, Broadmeadow, “drainage methane is captured and flared” while for its open-cut mines, the company is working to determine the optimal use of the gas as well as any operational challenges the pre-drainage may create.

“Proven solutions will not address 100% of fugitive methane emissions, so it is likely that a residual amount will remain untreated if there is no significant technological progress,” he said.

Nigel Tame, BHP’s head of steel decarbonisation partnerships, said the company was “progressing a diverse project portfolio to larger scale covering routes we believe have greatest potential to support decarbonisation” from use of our products.

BHP is investing in and supporting collaborative partnerships and consortiums to pursue decarbonisation through research and ventures. It was also working on standardisation and transparency to advance the readiness of steel decarbonisation technologies.

With its reliance on more than 1 500 equipment including diesel trucks, BHP’s emissions profile from its diesel consumption is elevated. The company’s trials of electric heavy machinery is behind schedule owing to the complexities of developing such technology.

“Despite this, we still anticipate our first battery-electric truck sites and locomotives to be in operation from late this decade –assuming our trials are successful,” said Heal.