Sustainability on top of the agenda for WA resources sector

Western Australian resources sector companies are leading the way in adopting low emissions technology in a step towards a more sustainable future and in line with meeting the Paris Agreement.The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s (CME) Chief Executive Paul Everingham said many of CME’s members were transitioning to a lower emissions economy, driven in part by shareholder expectations.“Shareholders are becoming increasingly vocal about their desire for companies to be sustainable, which has led many to adopt innovative methods of reducing their carbon footprint,” he said.

“The actions being undertaken vary widely ranging from fundamental research to drive technology innovation and step-change in industrial processes, to energy and efficiency improvements, to improved natural resource usage and waste minimisation, to large-scale carbon capture and storage to tree planting.”

The release yesterday of The World Gold Council’s Gold and Climate Change: Current and Future Impacts report stated that the gold industry has put itself at the forefront of the decarbonisation push by laying out cost-effective ways of eliminating carbon emissions from its mines. The report also said there were “substantial opportunities … to adapt to a net zero carbon future.”

“Locally, we’ve already seen Gold Fields Agnew gold mine become the first in Australia to be powered by a renewable wind, solar, battery storage and gas microgrid,” Mr Everingham said.

Other examples of CME’s members meaningfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions include:

  • Chevron Australia recently announced the safe start up and commencement of operations for its Gorgon carbon dioxide reinjection system. Once fully operational, this system will  capture at least 80 per cent of Gorgon’s reservoir carbon dioxide resulting in an overall 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the project. This system is one of the largest carbon capture and storage systems ever constructed and represents a significant step forward for at scale application of this technology.

  • Woodside Energy’s Pluto LNG project implemented a pioneering offsets program, investing more than $100 million in what was at the time Australia’s largest commercial offsets program. Through an innovative collaboration with CO2 Australia, more than 40 million drought-resistant, native Australian blue mallee trees have been planted across over 17,000 hectares. At the end of 2018, these plantations had sequestered over 850,000 tonnes of CO2.

  • Alcoa and Rio Tinto, in partnership with Apple and the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, are investing in a revolutionary process to make aluminium that produces only oxygen and eliminates all direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process. The traditional smelting process uses carbon anodes, the consumption of which results in carbon dioxide emissions. To advance larger scale development and commercialisation of the new process, Alcoa and Rio Tinto have formed Elysis, a joint venture company to further develop the new process with a technology package ready for market in 2024. Approximately C$188 million has been committed through the partnership to advance this technology.

“These examples represent a clear commitment to changing the way these companies do business, with carbon reduction now at the forefront of mind for the sector,” Mr Everingham said.

“It also demonstrates that the resources sector can act on its own accord without the need for Government intervention, which can prohibit investment and expansion, which ultimately would cost the state significantly in terms of economic contribution and job creation.”