De Beers last week announced that it was leading a ground-breaking research project that intended to deliver carbon-neutral mining at some of the company’s operations in five years’ time.
The project aims to quicken what is already a naturally occurring and safe process of extracting carbon from the atmosphere and keeping it at a speed that could offset man-made carbon emissions.
A press release states that the company’s scientists are working in close collaboration with a team of internationally-renowned scientists to probe the potential to store large volumes of carbon at its diamond mines through the mineralisation of kimberlite “tailings”, the material that remains after diamonds have been removed from the ore.
Scientists estimate that the carbon storage potential of kimberlite tailings produced by a diamond mine every year could offset up to 10 times the emissions of a typical mine, the release states.
De Beers Group will investigate the storage potential across its diamond mines globally. The press release says that it is the first time such extensive research that is; the application of these technologies to kimberlite ore found in abundance in the tailings at diamonds sites has to be undertaken to critique the carbonation potential of kimberlite even though the mineral carbonation technologies are not new.
However, as part of the project, they are looking at how these existing technologies can be modified to develop specific solutions suitable for storing carbon in kimberlite tailings.
The research is said to be in its initial stages and it may take some time before it is economically or practically achievable to tap into full storage potential. Nevertheless, even just appointing into a small amount could greatly reduce the net emissions at many of the mine sites in the near future, and possibly lead to carbon-neutral mining at some sites within the next five to ten years.
De Beers Group’s Project Lead for the initiative, Dr Evelyn Mervine, said that this project bids huge potential to completely counterbalance the carbon emissions of De Beers’ diamond mining operations.
Bruce Cleaver, De Beers CEO said: “By replicating this technology at other mining operations around the world, this project could play a major role in changing the way not only the diamond industry but also the broader mining industry and report the challenge of reducing its carbon footprint.”
He said by investing in ground-breaking projects such as this, aligned with the FutureSmart Mining innovation programme of their parent company, Anglo American, they have the real potential to leave a positive, long-lasting legacy for the global mining industry.
De Beers started the project in 2016. A key part of its early work was centred on supporting academic-focused mineral carbonation studies of old (pre-1912) and recent (post-2008) kimberlite tailings samples from Voorspoed Mine in South Africa, which provide a great “natural laboratory” for understanding carbonation reactions in kimberlite. But now the company, of which Anglo American has owned an 85 percent stake since 2011, wants to be known for transforming the mining sector in a different way.
Mineral carbonation potential assessment studies are currently underway for Venetia Mine in South Africa and Gahcho Ku├® Mine in Canada. Further research and detailed studies will continue until 2018 to assess the carbonation potential at these and other De Beers Group mines.