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Path to net zero: More mining companies setting targets to reduce emissions

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Path to net zero: More mining companies setting targets to reduce emissions

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BHP Group operates and owns 57.5% of the Escondida copper-gold mine in Chile's Atacama desert. The diversified miner is among the larger mining companies that have laid out goals to reach net-zero emissions.
Source: BHP Group

Several mining companies have strengthened corporate sustainability goals in recent months amid intensifying pressure to act on climate change.

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Path to net zero
How some of the biggest companies in energy and metals and mining are moving to decarbonize their footprints. Please click on the story links below to read more of our coverage.
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Overview: Momentum builds for energy transition as oil, gas pledges grow

Utilities: 70% of biggest US utilities have deep decarbonization targets

Oil and gas: Climate change takes center stage at more US oil companies

Mining: More mining companies setting targets to reduce emissions

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A wide swath of the global economy depends on the materials produced by the mining and metals sector. More mining companies are setting emissions targets and positioning operations to supply products that are more climate friendly to various industries, including those needing increasingly more mined materials such as the tech and automotive sectors.

S&P Global Market Intelligence researched 30 mining companies ranking among the world's largest by market capitalization and identified 11 entities claiming to be carbon neutral or having set goals to reach net-zero emissions, mostly before 2050. Other companies in the industry have set differing emissions targets, while some reported that stricter targets are in development.

"I think the pressure is on for every industry, including the mining industry," Engie Impact CEO Mathias Lelièvre said in a recent interview with Market Intelligence about the sustainability and energy management company's work with mining companies to plot sustainability goals. "We see good momentum on our side. We really see players who are taking that change very seriously."

The world's largest mining companies by market capitalization, BHP Group and Rio Tinto, have publicized ambitions for net-zero emissions, as noted in a previous analysis of mining company goals. BHP Group has been questioned about maintaining its coal operations and investing in its petroleum business while pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

"We accept the science around climate change and we support the Paris Agreement goals," BHP Group Independent Nonexecutive Chairman of the Board Ken Mackenzie said on an Oct. 14 shareholder call in response to a question about the company's petroleum business. "The challenge here is providing access to reliable and affordable energy while reducing emissions."

LISTEN: Click here to hear exclusive interviews on the S&P Global podcast Energy Evolution in which executives from two of the largest North American pipeline operators that recently set net-zero emissions targets, Enbridge Inc. and Williams Cos. Inc., outline their path forward.

The mining companies forming the top 30 list have shifted, but more major miners outlined new plans to hit net-zero emissions since industry goals were assessed in July.

Another diversified mining major, Switzerland-based Glencore PLC, outlined plans Dec. 4 to promote its global head of coal, Gary Nagle, to CEO while rolling out ambitions the same day to become carbon neutral by 2050. Nagle will replace Ivan Glasenberg, who plans to retire in the first half of 2021.

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"We're uniquely positioned because the transition to a low-carbon future requires the commodities which Glencore produces," Glasenberg said during the company's Dec. 4 analyst and investor day.

Glasenberg said coal represents about 5% of Glencore revenue, and "as it depletes itself, we can grow our business in the other metals and the metals which the world needs for this renewable future."

Colorado-based gold miner Newmont Corp. laid out a target Nov. 12 to achieve a 30% reduction in emissions within 10 years while targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

"We take these climate change commitments seriously and make them because our relationship with the planet is absolute," Newmont President and CEO Tom Palmer said in a related news release. "We want a world that is not just sustainable but thriving for generations to come."

As part of its target, Newmont created an investment standard to ensure it incorporates 2030 goals into decisions for projects including its fleet vehicles, production equipment, on-site renewable power generation and energy efficiency projects.

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Brazil-based multinational miner Vale SA recently announced a target to reduce its client and supplier emissions by 15% by 2035 against a 2018 base year, strengthening previous net-zero targets for its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. The iron ore-focused mining company is planning to become carbon neutral by 2050.

If a company does not have a specific net-zero target, that does not necessarily mean it is not committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. One example is Toronto-based Kinross Gold Corp., which does not have a net-zero pledge but does benchmark its greenhouse gas emissions against gold sector peers.

Kinross spokesperson Louie Diaz said that on an intensity basis, the company is in the lowest decile in terms of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of processed ore. Kinross benchmarks its climate disclosures against recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and will continue to use that framework to guide its reporting, Diaz said.

Other mining companies are in the process of setting more stringent emissions goals. For example, South Africa-based Gold Fields Ltd. is working on 2025 emissions targets it will announce in early 2021, according to Sven Lunsche, the company's vice president of corporate affairs. Lunsche said Gold Fields is also working on longer-term goals that "will, most likely, include a commitment to net-zero emissions."