A mining boss predicted significantly more fossil fuels are needed to support the energy transition.
Mike Henry suggested twice as much steelmaking coal will be produced in response to a worldwide shift towards renewable alternatives.
“We are going to need two times as much copper over the next 30 years, four times as much nickel, two times as much steel and – therefore steel inputs – but the amount of mining activity is going to be even greater than that,” he said in a video shared on YouTube.
“The world [is] going to need a lot more copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt and so on – in the coming years – if we are to successfully navigate the energy transition.”
BHP’s chief executive also told the 2023 World Economic Forum’s infrastructure for a clean energy economy panel discussion that authorities must approve projects sooner. This will not only help producers meet soaring demand for commodities but also increase investor confidence across the sector.
“The constraint on getting more metals and minerals out of the ground more quickly [and] more efficiently at lower cost is policy certainty, and to streamline the red tape that is out there to get a new mine up [and running]. We have gone from it taking about 10 years, by going like 20–30 years, to now taking 15–20,” he can be heard saying.
“Germany, with the recent example of being able to get an LNG facility up in eight months versus it normally taking eight to 10 years, shows that when the right parties turn their minds to it we can actually cut through this and get it done a lot more quickly … [and] the capital is there – there is a willingness to invest but the conditions have to be improved.”
For now Henry is championing smart mine technology that helps locate new mineral seams at existing operations.
“With things like artificial intelligence and machine learning you can bring those two things together to find deposits in places where people did not think anything exists. BHP’s recent experience of that in South Australia went back into old ground, so ground that had been looked at previously people had said there is nothing there, and we managed to find a big new deposit through new technology and new ways of of sifting through old data,” he said.
The remarks came as BHP Western Australian Iron Ore’s (WAIO’s) Perth integrated remote operations centre celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
Since 2012 the centre has overseen major iron ore logistics and processes, connecting four processing hubs plus five mining hubs with more than 1000km of rail and ports across the Pilbara region. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
“Our iron ore operations are safer, more sustainable and more cost efficient now than they were 10 years ago – and the remote operations centre has been critical to achieving that,” WAIO asset president Brandon Craig said in a public statement.