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Climate change challenges for the mining industry. Claude Villeneuve Professor Département des sciences fondamentales Université du Québec à Chicoutimi Iamgold workshop Chicoutimi Sept 17, 2012. Towards an uncertain future.

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Climate changechallenges for the miningindustry

  • Claude Villeneuve

  • Professor

  • Département des sciences fondamentales

  • Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

  • Iamgold workshop Chicoutimi Sept 17, 2012

Towards an uncertain future
Towards an uncertain future

  • In the last fortyyears, science made the generaldeterioration of the global environment an undisputableevidence.

  • It threatensmankind’sability to keepdeveloping on the samepath

    • Biodiversitylosses

    • Climate change

    • Ozone depletion

    • Ocean acidification

    • Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles acceleration

    • Freshwateravailability and quality

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Economic growth and energy
Economicgrowth and energy

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World primary energy sources
World primaryenergy sources

Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewableenergy sources

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Keep growing


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Sources of anthropogenic ghg source giec gt3 2007
Sources of anthropogenic GHG(Source: GIEC, GT3, 2007)

Émissions anthropiques en 2007- 29 Gt CO2éq

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Global meantemperature 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
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

2010-2030par rapport à 1975-1995

2040-2060par rapport à 1975-1995

2080-2100par rapport à 1975-1995

Future climate

MeantemperatureCanadian GCM[scénario IS92a (2xCO2in 2065)]

(Service météorologique du Canada, Environnement Canada)






  • Actuallyitis the most probable scenario given:

  • Fossil fuels availability

  • International trade trends and incapacity to obtain a climate agreement


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Atmospheric water carryingcapacity

High energyatmosphere


9 000 m3

48 000 m3

304 000 m3

+ 30 0c

- 20 0c

0 0 c

New climate event occurrence
New climateevent occurrence

Source IPCC 2012

Dry future
Dry future

Consecutuve dry daysSoildryness anomalies

Source IPCC 2012

Wet future
Wet future?

  • The degree of confidence in predictingheavyrainfalls or extremeclimaticeventsis far lessthanprediction of dryness.

  • Althoughtheseevents are local and statisticallymuch harder to predict on large scale (territory, timeframe), the climate science isnow able to predict an increased occurrence for both types of extreme

  • See: IPCC 2012, Managing the risks of estremeevents and disasters to advanceclimate change adaptation

A new occurrence for climateextremes

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Climate change evidence
Climate change evidence

  • Ice surface and volume

  • Permafrost surface

  • Ocean surface acidification

  • Sealevelrise

Arctic sea ice

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August 2012 has been the smallestiArticicecovereversincesatellital observations (NASA-GISS)

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Permafrost surface
Permafrost surface

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Upcoming global warming

« Wealready have in bank a 2,4˚C global warming in the XXIstcenturyevenwith the mostambitious GHG reduction programs, itisunavoidable. » . (Ramanhatan, V et Y. Feng (2008) On avoidingdangerousanthropogenicinterferencewith the climate system: Formidable challenge ahead PNAS, 105:58:14245-14250

« The Copenhagen accord is not going to influence significantly the GHG emission patterns towards 2020 » OECD Environmental trends, 2012

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Most recentforecast

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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,

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L15708, doi:10.1029/2009GL038932,.

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  • Higher variability and weather extremes («wild weather»)

  • 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 sinceOctober 2011

  • More thanhalf are city dwellerssince 2008 and the proportion keepsgrowing

  • One more billion willaddtowards 2025 and anotherbefore 2050

  • 20% of the poorestshare 2% of the total wealth

  • To reach OECD level by 2050, the WDP shouldincrease 15 fold ans 40 fold for 2100 (Jackson 2009)

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Energy transition?

Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewableenergy sources

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Source: IPCC, 2011, Special report on renewableenergy sources

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What’s up, Doc?

  • Global warming, sealevelrise and climateextremeswill impact world’seconomy in an impredictableway.

    • Agriculture

    • Forests

    • Transportation

    • Real estate

    • Tourism

    • Energy

    • Trade

    • Investment

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Key concepts
Key concepts

Source: IPCC, 2012


  • An energy intensive sector

    • Lowermineral content of new mines

    • Remote locations

    • Global markets

  • Miningoccursundermostclimate conditions all over the world and may have important environmental impacts depending on site sensitivity

  • Life cycle of metalsgreatly varies in carbonintensity but generally, extraction is not the most important contributor

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  • In gold mining, emissions varies greatlydependingupon ore concentration, mine location and mining technologies

  • Iamgoldemissionsraisedfrom 170 kg/troyounce in 2008 to 280 kg/troyounce in 2010 and 316 kg/troyounce in 2011

  • Gold is 100% recyclable. Only about 15% of world gold consumptionisrecycledannuallythusmining and processing are the main processescontributing 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 emissionswillvarywithcarbon content of electricitygrid

Source: Rio Tinto

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Global warmingpotential breakdown

Source: Rio Tinto

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Areas of concern

  • Infrastructures

    • Transportation

      • Roads

      • Marine

      • Freshwater

    • Containment (tailings)

    • Buildings

    • Energy

    • Communication

    • Mine site drainage

  • Operations

  • Environment

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  • Permafrost instability

    • Roads

    • Airports

    • Railroads

  • Seaicecover

    • New opportunities for sea transportation in the Arctic

  • Sealevelrise

    • Seashore installations protection

  • Glacier melt

    • Road security

  • Inland waters

    • Lakes and riverslevelinfluenced by drought

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  • Warmeraveragetemperaturescanaccelerateacid mine drainage

  • Alteredfreeze/thaw cycles can expose previouslyfrozentailings

  • Possible overflow or ruptures of dikesfollowingflashfloods or highintensityprecipitations

  • Wind and wave action of extremeweathereventscan cause resuspension of tailings and formation of icedams

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Buildings and water supply

  • Permafrost thawcanjeopardize building structures

  • Higheraveragetemperaturecan lead to water scarcity for ore processing or covering of tailings

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Can miningindustryadapt to climate change?

  • Differentstrokes for different folks… each site has itsownpotential challenges

  • Climate change concerns are relativelyminorgiven the miningindustryexperiencewithnatural conditions

  • So whybother?

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Good practices pay!

  • Most measures to mitigateclimate change are oriented on energyefficiency and better production

  • Avoiding incidents due to unexpectedweathereventsprotectsagainstlawsuits and fatalities

  • RSI funds are growing in capital and they are concerned by the waymining sites perform (CDP, WDP, GRI etc.)

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  • LCA

  • Carbonfootprint

  • Carbon offsets

  • R&D

  • Education and training

  • Renewableenergy for electricity and fuels

  • Betterbuilding requirements

  • Flood management design

  • Increased surveillance

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  • Climate change is real and itwillincrease in the 21st century

  • Mankind action is the most important driver of climate change

  • The miningindustryis one of the important contributorsthrough GHG emissions

  • Changingweather and extremesmay cause adaptation challenges to the industry

  • There are tools to alleviaterisks and improve performance

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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 concludingremarks

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