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PDAC 2022: As ESG drives metal demand and constrains supply, miners will have to innovate  

Mines of the future will need software developers, data analysts and even bio-technology scientists to be able to meet the rising of demand of metals, needed for decarbonization, in an environmentally friendly way, said Teck Resources’ (TSX: TECK.B; Nasdaq: TECK) Jeff Hanmanin a keynote speech on the final day of PDAC 2022.  

Hanman, Teck’s vice-president of sustainable development gave examples of how the company is attempting to solve operational issues through innovation — including using ideas from Star Trek to reduce dust in the water-depleted mines of Chile and utilizing tiny bugs in its water treatment operations.  

“The same ESG factors that are driving demand are increasingly constraining supply,” he said. “The truth is it’s probably never been harder to build a new mine. Investors, regulators, Indigenous Nations are all rightfully demanding reduced impacts. This is translating into much more complex, regulatory and engagement processes that take vastly more time.”  

“For us to meet the challenge of more metal more quickly, with less impact, mining needs to innovate and do so quickly,” added Hanman.   

The global mining industry faces the unique challenge of producing more metals to support decarbonization, while reducing its carbon emissions. Currently the sector is responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to McKinsey. 

In a bid to advance its water treatment facilities, Teck has partnered with other mining and technology companies and extracted DNA from about 15,000 microbes found at mine sites across the globe.  

“This information is used to identify naturally occurring biology that can potentially replace, enhance or create new processes at our mining operations, all by finding the right bug to eat the right material,” he said. “It’s not just making mining cleaner, it’s also about making it more efficient and unlocking more supply.”  

At its Carmen de Andacollo mine in Chile, the company faces the dual challenge of reducing water usage while managing dust. As such, its team there is working on a pilot project that creates an electrostatic force field by broadcasting electrostatic waves over a mining area which charges the dust particles, make them heavy and eventually keeps them to the ground.   

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