Low Carbon Metals

Decarbonization Avenue : Low Carbon Metals


The mining and metals sector is a large contributor to CO2 emissions. Between the two, the metals production section dominates CO2 emissions.

Steel production is one of the largest emitters of CO2 emissions, with over 2.5 billion tons of annual emissions. Aluminium production results in CO2 emissions of about 1 billion tons per annum. Compared to these, the total mining industry (for all prominent metals) emits a relatively smaller 400 million tons of CO2 per annum.

But mining is more than just CO2 emissions. Mining operations also degrade land and there could be negative effects to the nearby regions’ ecosystems too. And we are not talking small numbers - there are over 10,000 abandoned mines in Canada alone, with the US likely to have multiple times that many. In addition to direct CO2 emissions from mining operations, the large amounts of unused mining waste and the ecosystem damages from mining could indirectly result in significant opportunity costs in the context of decarbonization - for instance, by depriving these large tracts of lands of trees and biomass which can sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Decarbonization efforts in the metals and mining sector have been quite recent, and most of them are right now focussing on emissions reduction by purchasing renewable power (solar or wind power), and through energy efficiency measures (waste heat capture, for instance) in their operations. While these efforts can contribute to reasonable decarbonization, the real potential for decarbonization lies in dramatically reducing the energy needed for their core production processes, and for that, electrification of heating could play a vital role. Such electrification is, however, in its very initial stages for this sector.

For the 2020-2030 period, innovations for decarbonizing the metals and minerals sector could be around use of green hydrogen, CO2 capture & use, use of metal scraps & tailings, and effective recycling of metals.

Industries impacted

  • Aerospace & defense
  • Airlines & aviation
  • Automobiles & auto components
  • Construction & real estate
  • Consumer durables
  • Electrical
  • Electronics & semiconductors
  • Engineering goods & machinery
  • Marine transport
  • Mining & metals
  • Oil & gas
  • Road transport
  • Waste management

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Themes & Topics

  • Key metal sectors

    • Steel

    • Aluminium

    • Zinc

    • Copper

  • Decarbonization through

    • Renewable energy

      • Renewable energy for mining

    • Energy efficiency

      • Electrifying metal production

      • Process changes in metal production

      • Waste heat capture

    • Low carbon materials

    • Water use efficiency

    • Carbon capture & use

      • From blast furnace

  • Waste utilization

    • Reusing mining waste

    • Recycling metals

  • Sustainable management of mined lands

  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration

  • Financing for decarbonization

  • Policies

  • Use IT & digital tools