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Q&A Session 2: Minviro - ESG in Mining

Welcome to our second Q&A session with founding member, Minviro - Robert Pell, Director and Laurens Tijsseling, Sustainability Manager on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in mining.


Our Q&A will cover:

  • The future of ESG in the mining industry and increased investor/ off-taker expectations for transparency

  • Importance of robust environmental data for mining projects

  • How Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) can reduce CO2 emissions/ environmental impacts of mining/ EV production


Minviro offers innovative solutions for the mining industry to reduce their environmental impact, access materials responsibly and reduce risks by:


  • Providing quantitative environmental performance metrics for resource projects in development, operation, or end-of-life, using Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)

  • Providing consultancy services as well as software solutions

  • Helping investors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) by comparing the environmental footprint of individual mining projects


1) CMA: Why did you decide to start Minviro?


Robert: I formed Minviro during my PhD research at Camborne School of Mines (University of Exeter) whilst quantifying the environmental impacts for rare earth projects in development stages. I found that you could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts by applying the life cycle assessment approach during the project development stages and iterating flowsheets or adjusting energy/ reagent procurement scenarios. I wanted to apply this in a commercial setting and conversations with a number of industry players showed a lot of interest. Indeed, over the last year Minviro has moved from strength to strength.


2) CMA: What key things should people outside the mining community (e.g. downstream companies, governments) know about a mine's environmental impact?


Robert: We are going to see greater demands for transparency within the supply chains of many OEMs, and this means that mining companies, whatever the size, will need robust data on the environmental profile of their project.


  • Downstream users want to know what the carbon footprint of 1 kg of the lithium, graphite or cobalt from your project will be and will make buying decisions based on this data alongside the economics.

  • This data will be important for governments and investors as well. An additional key point will be how the project compares to other projects in the region that produce the same commodity.

  • We are seeing today that companies are differentiating themselves from the competition by highlighting that they can produce a low-carbon, or low impact product.


3) CMA: Who will be most/ least prepared for the ESG changes that are coming?


Laurens: ESG is an area that currently has a much more prominent role in the mining industry than a decade ago. There is an increase in demand from investors and off-takers that the mining companies are compliant with ESG standards.


  • The big tier mining companies will have the internal knowledge and human resources to do this.

  • For junior and mid-tier mining companies this internal capability may not be present. From that perspective, it looks like the smaller companies will be the least prepared, but we are looking to help these companies out by the implementation of software solutions

  • One of the main motivations for Minviro is providing companies of all scales with the tools to drive environmentally responsible mining


4) CMA: What are the biggest challenges you see for sustainable mining?


Robert:


  • The major challenges are not just within sustainable mining. Mining in general has a challenge with communicating complex problems to external stakeholders.

  • Highlighting that mining and metal production is an essential pillar of a low-carbon future and the circular economy is an important first step. If this message is communicated well, we can start evaluating the range of options we have to access these critical metals.

  • Some of the biggest technical challenges today are concerned with greenhouse gas emissions, limiting water consumption in water scarce regions, limiting or reversing biodiversity loss, and management of legacy waste.


5) CMA: How do you see the future of ESG in the mining industry?


Robert: We are currently seeing the widespread adoption of ESG, which is positive as it highlights the industry’s intent to improve in the area of sustainability. However, ESG is still in relative infancy and some of the methodologies to quantify the environmental aspect of ESG are not consistent or truly representative.


We think that ESG metrics will continue to be important and will most likely play an important factor for mining companies to obtain their financing and perhaps also in the continuation of permits.


An important next step is harmonising methodologies and developing a uniform disclosure process. Minviro is working with a number of stakeholders in the battery metals supply chain to advance these methodologies and ensure consistent comparisons across projects and companies. Our recent article on harmonising methodologies and quantifying the impact of lithium chemical production can be found here: "Apples to Apples: Developing a Framework for Environmental Impact Comparison for Lithium Chemical Products.



6) CMA: How can Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) help understand the CO2 impact of electric vehicle (EV) production and supply chains?


Robert: There is a significant data gap for many of the raw materials used in EVs, and some of the data that is used does not represent current production routes or technologies.


  • EVs have a lower CO2 intensity per km over the life of the vehicle for most regions, however it is estimated that the CO2 intensity of manufacturing an electric vehicle is around 2.5x higher than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, mostly because of battery manufacturing.

  • We are applying LCAs for operating and future projects for a number of battery metals and chemicals. We have recently completed studies on lithium hydroxide and the comparison between synthetic and natural graphite.

  • This data can improve the accuracy of CO2 impact calculations for EVs and more importantly can provide data to inform low carbon procurement strategies for future EV manufacturing.


7) CMA: How can organisations like Minviro help the wider critical mineral supply chain understand areas for improvements in environmental impact?


Laurens:


  • Before we can improve and minimize the environmental impact of the critical mineral supply chain, we need quantitative data on the existing situation.

  • Organisations like Minviro try to help in creating a clear picture of the impact at the start of the supply chain.

  • Following that, we can dig deeper and identify the main causes of impact along the supply chain and help companies in mitigating that impact.


8) CMA: Why did you decide to join the CMA?


Laurens: The CMA brings together a range of mining stakeholders in the UK: mining companies, traders, service providers, end users, academics and of course the government. We believe that being part of an organisation that allows all these different groups to have a dialogue about the supply chain and sustainability, making sure that each other's strengths and weaknesses are understood, is crucial to ensure best practice sourcing of these critical raw materials.

Thanks Robert and Laurens! Congratulations to Minviro for securing £125,000 investment from Sustainable Ventures. ehttp://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_787460_en.html


Learn more about Minviro here: https://www.minviro.com/



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Critical Minerals Association

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@ Critical Minerals Association 2020