BHP — not just Australia’s largest miner but the world’s largest miner — is aggressively seeking to reduce its carbon footprint. It is the company’s ambition to reduce operational emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030, and to achieve net zero by 2050.
“During the 2021 financial year, iron ore made up the highest level of Scope 3 emissions at BHP, producing 260.7 million tons of CO2 across this timeframe. By March 2021, BHP had instituted partnerships with three separate Chinese steelmakers to investigate ways of decarbonizing steelmaking, an industry intrinsically fueled by iron ore.”
BHP has invested almost $AU200 million to develop a pathway to decarbonize the iron ore–to–steel process. “Steelmaking is going to be quite hard to decarbonize. .. With known technology, it is still not economic to do so,” says BHP CEO Mike Henry, speaking at the 2021 Financial Times Mining Summit. Please don’t tell the Swedes.
“Through BHP Ventures, which is solely focused on developing early-stage technology companies and start-ups, there are other decarbonization endeavors in the works.
“Henry emphasizes that: we need to ensure that the standards are set around things like water stewardship, biodiversity, community engagement and Indigenous cultural heritage.”
Comparing the approach of BHP with that of Fortescue Metals (and the recent green steel proposals in Sweden), it does seem like they are taking a much more cautious and indeed pessimistic view of the future decarbonization of the mining industry. It reminds me not a little of Toyota’s comments about battery electric cars and the other slow-walkers of the motor vehicle industry. It also reminds me of the Australian Liberal (conservative) government’s reluctant lip service to a net-zero emissions target.
If, as BHP management claims, “Decarbonization is not just a prevailing trend at BHP; it underlines every discussion and every investment. With the fervor to act and the infrastructure mounting, the stage is set for BHP to inspire a decarbonized mining industry going forward,” then in my humble opinion, it is time they picked up the pace. They certainly have the capital and the expertise to do so.