COP25: “Talking about a sustainable company is a redundancy”

This is what Gonzalo Muñoz says, High-Level Climate Action Champion of COP25, the global event on the environment to be held in Chile in December. The entrepreneur, founder of TriCiclos recycling company and the first Champion in history from the private world, assures that the challenges of the mining industry in the face of climate change present a great opportunity since reducing emissions is intrinsically aligned with opportunities to reduce energy costs.

Last April, the Master in Environmental Management and founder of the B company TriCiclos – winner of multiple awards for his model of circular economy with a social focus – was named Champion of the COP25. A high-profile role whose task is to spread the importance of taking measures to reduce greenhouse gases and join forces to implement the Paris Agreement, established in 2015 in order to curb global warming.

This is an event that will transform Chile into a showcase for global environmental efforts, focusing on climate action rather than simply discussing the problem. In that sense, he says, mining faces great challenges along with other industries, particularly in energy consumption. 

“The challenges of the mining industry in the face of climate change do not differ much from the challenges of any industry, and it is to move towards an emission-neutral production that allows the industry to be consistent with the Paris Agreement in terms of doing everything that it is in our hands so that the temperature does not rise more than 1.5º C over pre-industrial levels”, Muñoz stated.

In an interview with Cesco, Gonzalo Muñoz talks about how COP25 will impact the mining industry and why talking about “sustainable company” is today a redundancy.

In your opinion, which are the main challenges of the mining industry in the face of Climate Change? 

Mining is particularly a sector that consumes a lot of energy, representing approximately 11% of global energy use. Therefore, the challenge in terms of emissions is that this energy comes from renewable sources and is used more efficiently. A 2010 estimation of the contribution of the mining industry to global emissions showed that it was close to 1 Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 e) per year, which corresponds to approximately 2% of total global emissions. Of this total, approximately half of the sector’s emissions are derived from the use of fuel in mining and mineral processing operations, as well as emissions of fugitive methane (CH4) in coal mines. In turn, the other half comes from the use of electricity, mainly in the refining and smelting operations (ICMM 2011). Hence, opportunities to reduce emissions are intrinsically aligned with opportunities to reduce energy costs.

What topics within COP25 do you think will directly or tangentially impact the industry?

The priorities of the COP25 Presidency are that we must move on to talk about climate action and the ambitious implementation of these actions. This means that directly or indirectly some industries will quickly begin to move towards a low carbon economy. For this, mining and the sectors that consume a lot of energy, in general, should consider in their mid-term strategies this transition towards decarbonization and independence of their matrix, in such a way to internalize the changes towards where the climate action is pointing. This implies that the industry must not only look for mechanisms to be more efficient and provide clean energy but also to internalize throughout its value chain low-carbon mechanisms such as cargo trucks and desalination processes, among others.

Nowadays there are initiatives such as ICA’s Copper Mark and the new LME guidelines on Responsible Supply, which point to socially responsible mining. Do you think these initiatives will raise the standard of mining activity in environmental issues as well?

Today we are facing a climate crisis, and this has been revealed by some States and various companies when declaring a climate emergency. We must begin to act and take measures to reduce our emissions. The sustainable development goals to which many industries adhere have been committed to incorporating climate action goal number 13. Mining should not only commit to goal 12 of responsible production and consumption but for the 17 objectives by 2030.

Sustainability is not an option, and to speak of a sustainable company is a redundancy; an industry that is not sustainable puts its business at risk in the future.

The World Bank recently launched the Climate-Smart Mining Facility. What projection do you see for this type of initiatives? Do you think that beyond the State efforts there are global policies necessary to support companies in their transformation towards more sustainable mining?

The project launched by the World Bank is the first dedicated facility that brings together governments, industries, and financial institutions and private investors to support climate-smart mining. In this way, it is possible to ensure that the process incorporates the entire value chain of clean energy, given that the World Bank is committed to managing all resources responsibly and in turn to maximize the life cycle of the resources we use.

This program helps resource-rich countries to benefit from the growing demand for minerals and metals that are critical to the low-carbon transition in order to accelerate the process towards a cleaner and more efficient mining.

What is Chile’s position with respect to other mining nations in green mining?

I see an advance of the Chilean mining companies in seeking to solve all the environmental and social liabilities of the industry and that these are incorporated into the business, which means tremendous progress in terms of implementing the standards that are needed in all companies today. There is much to be done on other issues such as water, links with other industrial sectors and the challenges of climate action as well.