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Climate change
challenges for the mining industry
Claude Villeneuve
Département des sciences fondamentales
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Iamgold workshop Chicoutimi Sept 17, 2012
Towards an uncertain future
• In the last forty years, science made the general
deterioration of the global environment an
undisputable evidence.
• It threatens mankind’s ability to keep developing
on the same path
Biodiversity losses
Climate change
Ozone depletion
Ocean acidification
Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles acceleration
Freshwater availability and quality
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Economic growth and energy
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World primary energy sources
Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewable energy sources
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Keep growing!
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Sources of anthropogenic GHG
(Source: GIEC, GT3, 2007)
Émissions anthropiques en 2007- 29 Gt CO2éq
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Source IPCC 2007
Source IPCC 2007
Global mean temperature trends
Source IPCC 2007
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Source NASA: (février 2010)
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Global warming 'confirmed' by
independent study (20/10/11)
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Uneven changes
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Source IPCC 2007
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Future climate
Mean temperature Canadian GCM [scénario IS92a (2xCO2 in 2065)]
(Service météorologique du Canada, Environnement Canada )
2010-2030 par rapport à 1975-1995
2040-2060 par rapport à 1975-1995
2080-2100 par rapport à 1975-1995
Actually it is the most probable scenario given:
Fossil fuels availability
International trade trends and incapacity to obtain a climate agreement
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Atmospheric water carrying capacity
9 000 m3
48 000 m3
- 20
0c atmosphere
Low energy
304 000 m3
+ 30
0c atmosphere
High energy
New climate event occurrence
Source IPCC 2012
Dry future
Consecutuve dry days
Source IPCC 2012
Soil dryness anomalies
Wet future?
• The degree of confidence in predicting heavy rainfalls or
extreme climatic events is far less than prediction of dryness.
• Although these events are local and statistically much harder
to predict on large scale (territory, timeframe), the climate
science is now able to predict an increased occurrence for
both types of extreme
• See: IPCC 2012, Managing the risks of estreme events and
disasters to advance climate change adaptation
A new occurrence for climate extremes
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Climate change evidence
Ice surface and volume
Permafrost surface
Ocean surface acidification
Sea level rise
Arctic sea ice
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August 2012 has been the smallest iArtic ice cover ever since satellital observations (NASA-GISS)
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Permafrost surface
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Upcoming global warming
« We already have in bank a
2,4˚C global warming in the XXIst
century even with the most
programs, it is unavoidable. » .
(Ramanhatan, V et Y. Feng (2008)
anthropogenic interference with
the climate system: Formidable
« The Copenhagen accord is not
going to influence significantly
the GHG emission patterns
Environmental trends, 2012
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Most recent forecast
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A closer look for 2030
Source: Lean, J. and Rind, D, 2009, How will
surface tempretaure change in the future decades,
L15708, doi:10.1029/2009GL038932,.
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• Higher variability and weather extremes («wild
• Higher temperature means
• Accelerated ice and permafrost melting
• Sea level rise
• Water cycle perturbations (flash floods, drought)
• Change in seasonal behavior and migration of
animals and plants
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• We are 7 billion people since October 2011
• More than half are city dwellers since 2008 and
the proportion keeps growing
• One more billion will add towards 2025 and
another before 2050
• 20% of the poorest share 2% of the total wealth
• To reach OECD level by 2050, the WDP should
increase 15 fold ans 40 fold for 2100 (Jackson
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Energy transition?
Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewable energy sources
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Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewable energy sources
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What’s up, Doc?
• Global warming, sea level rise and climate
extremes will impact world’s economy in an
impredictable way.
Real estate
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Key concepts
Source: IPCC, 2012
• An energy intensive sector
– Lower mineral content of new mines
– Remote locations
– Global markets
• Mining occurs under most climate conditions all
over the world and may have important
environmental impacts depending on site
• Life cycle of metals greatly varies in carbon
intensity but generally, extraction is not the most
important contributor
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• In gold mining, emissions varies greatly
depending upon ore concentration, mine location
and mining technologies
• Iamgold emissions raised from 170 kg/troy ounce
in 2008 to 280 kg/troy ounce in 2010 and 316
kg/troy ounce in 2011
• Gold is 100% recyclable. Only about 15% of world
gold consumption is recycled annually thus
mining and processing are the main processes
contributing to global warming in the industry
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Process flow for gold production
Source: Rio Tinto
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Breakdown of energy for a gold LCA
These proportions varies from mine to mine and emissions will vary with carbon content of
electricity grid
Source: Rio Tinto
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Global warming potential breakdown
Source: Rio Tinto
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Assessing vulnerability
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Areas of concern
• Infrastructures
– Transportation
• Roads
• Marine
• Freshwater
Containment (tailings)
Mine site drainage
• Operations
• Environment
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• Permafrost instability
– Roads
– Airports
– Railroads
• Sea ice cover
– New opportunities for sea transportation in the Arctic
• Sea level rise
– Seashore installations protection
• Glacier melt
– Road security
• Inland waters
– Lakes and rivers level influenced by drought
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Containment facilities
• Warmer average temperatures can accelerate
acid mine drainage
• Altered freeze/thaw cycles can expose previously
frozen tailings
• Possible overflow or ruptures of dikes following
flashfloods or high intensity precipitations
• Wind and wave action of extreme weather events
can cause resuspension of tailings and formation
of ice dams
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Buildings and water supply
• Permafrost thaw can jeopardize building
• Higher average temperature can lead to water
scarcity for ore processing or covering of
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Can mining industry adapt to
climate change?
• Different strokes for different folks… each site
has its own potential challenges
• Climate change concerns are relatively minor
given the mining industry experience with
natural conditions
• So why bother?
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Good practices pay!
• Most measures to mitigate climate change are
oriented on energy efficiency and better
• Avoiding incidents due to unexpected weather
events protects against lawsuits and fatalities
• RSI funds are growing in capital and they are
concerned by the way mining sites perform
(CDP, WDP, GRI etc.)
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Carbon footprint
Carbon offsets
Education and training
Renewable energy for electricity and fuels
Better building requirements
Flood management design
Increased surveillance
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• Climate change is real and it will increase in the
21st century
• Mankind action is the most important driver of
climate change
• The mining industry is one of the important
contributors through GHG emissions
• Changing weather and extremes may cause
adaptation challenges to the industry
• There are tools to alleviate risks and improve
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• 45 minutes for discussion (5 or 6)
– Please mix provenances
• Coffee break (30 minutes) and discussion with
UQAC research team
• 3 minutes per group for reporting
• Synthesis and concluding remarks
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