TORONTO—Thinking of clean energy doesn’t usually conjure images of mines, with their diesel spewing drills and diggers and slime-crusted tailing ponds. However, Canadian mining companies, both through their operations in Canada and abroad, are contributing to the green power revolution.
According to a report from Clean Energy Canada, mining firms are decreasing their carbon footprints by investing in wind, solar, hydro and battery power for their operations, and committing to mitigating environmental risks, but these companies are positioned to make an even more indelible impact.
Solar is quickly becoming one of the world’s cheapest and most viable sources of clean power, with solar photovoltaic capacity projected to rise to 547 gigawatts by 2021, nearly doubling capacity relative to 2015. This booming industry is going to need primary resources to fuel demand.
There are 19 mineral products needed to create a solar PV panel, 14 of which are found or produced in Canada.
Clean Energy Canada says that as a producer, processor and refiner of lead, zinc, gold and copper, Canada is poised to benefit from continued growth in solar power around the globe.
The batteries, wiring, solar cells and semiconductor chips needed to construct solar panels can all be made with metals from Canada.
Copper in particular is essential not just to the solar power industry, but the global clean energy transition as a whole. Not only used in wiring for solar panels, copper is crucial to wind turbines, power transmission lines and electric vehicles—EVs require four times as much copper as internal combustion engines.
“Copper is the king of metals… Every single solution drives you to copper—solar power, wind power, electric cars, you name it,” said Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe Mines.
Canada has the world’s 10th largest copper reserves, at 11 million tonnes, and was the eight largest producer in 2016, churning out 720,000 tonnes.
The report says demand for this metal could grow by nearly 2 per cent annually to 31 million tonnes by 2035, a 43 per cent increase over current demand of 22 million tonnes, which puts Canadian producers in an enviable position.
Wind turbines and EVs not only require copper, but other minerals as well, and given the Canadian mining sector’s propensity to produce, process and refine an abundant variety of metals both at home and abroad, this looks to be a golden opportunity.