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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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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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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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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

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
climate change evidence
Climate change evidence
  • Ice surface and volume
  • Permafrost surface
  • Ocean surface acidification
  • Sealevelrise

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

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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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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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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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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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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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