Mining and Clean Tech in British Columbia

Mining and Clean Tech in British Columbia

May 24, 2018 Posted by Abby Pollen

The demand for clean energy and technology is booming, and British Columbian entrepreneurs are rising to the occasion. Solar and wind power, electric vehicles and digital devices are all gaining popularity as consumers – and investors – seek to support eco-friendly products. One outcome of green consumerism is an increase in mining activity. Electric and hybrid cars require up to four times more copper than conventional vehicles, and B.C. is the largest copper producer in the country.

Alternative energy sources like wind and solar rely heavily on batteries, and have driven the demand for lithium up by 10% each year since 2000. It takes over 80 tonnes of steelmaking coal to build one three-megawatt wind turbine – and B.C. mines are meeting that need. Silver is a major component in solar panels, and British Columbia is the second largest producer of silver in Canada.

British Columbia has rich mineral deposits, a pool of world-class talent and strong partnerships with First Nations partners and communities. According to the Mining Association of BC, the province boasts some of the least carbon-intensive mining operations in the world, due in large part to a clean energy grid, industry-leading innovation, and a robust regulatory framework.

Companies keen to reduce their carbon emissions collaborate to fund competitions like the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, which Vancouver-based company Terra CO2 Technologies has entered this year. Re-purposing carbon is often hindered by hefty energy requirements, but Terra CO2 Technologies are optimistic about their method of purifying acidic drainage and carbon dioxide emissions. The process turns carbon into eco-friendly by-products, and may revolutionize the mining industry footprint. If they win the competition, they will receive a $20-million grand prize to fund their research.

Other innovative developments in the sector come from Vancouver-based company MineSense, which uses technology to scan and analyze data collected from sensors on machines that move ore. The software scans for electromagnetic signatures and uses X-rays to detect metal concentrations, which means mining operations can locate the best places to dig. It also reduces the amount of time, energy, water and waste consumed by ore processing.

The Mining Association of BC participated in Clean Energy BC’s Generate conference last year, where they shared the sector’s role in the move towards a lower-carbon economy. Clean energy and clean technology such as solar panels, wind turbines and high-density batteries all require the metals and minerals produced by mines in B.C., including steelmaking coal, copper, lead, zinc, gold, molybdenum and silver. As a leading producer of these resources, B.C. mines are crucial to a clean-energy future.

The provincial mining sector currently employs about 30,000 people in communities around the province. This year, the B.C. government created a task force with the objective of ensuring B.C. is the most competitive jurisdiction for investment in Canada and creating employment security as the industry grows to meet rising demand. The task force includes representatives from First Nations, labour, industry, post-secondary education, an environmental non-government organization and the financial sector.

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