De Beers Goes Green, Announces Research for Carbon Neutral Mining

Sustainability
04/05/2017 09:34

De Beers Group has announced it is leading a ground-breaking research project that aims to deliver carbon-neutral mining at some of the company’s operations in as few as five years. The company’s scientists are working in close collaboration with a team of internationally-renowned scientists to investigate 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. De Beers Group will investigate the storage potential across its diamond mines globally. It is the first time such extensive research has been undertaken to assess the carbonation potential of kimberlite, a rare type of rock that has been found to offer ideal properties for storing carbon through mineral carbonation technologies. De Beers Group’s Project Lead for the initiative, Dr Evelyn Mervine, said: “This project offers huge potential to completely offset the carbon emissions of De Beers’ diamond mining operations.

The project aims to accelerate what is already a naturally occurring and safe process of extracting carbon from the atmosphere and storing it at a speed that could offset man-made carbon emissions. 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. “Mineral carbonation technologies are not new, but what is new is the application of these technologies to kimberlite ore, which is found in abundance in the tailings at diamond sites, and which offers ideal properties for the storage of very large volumes of carbon," Mervine continues. "“The research is in its early stages and it may take some time before it is economically or practically achievable to tap into this full storage potential. However ... As technology improves over time, more and more carbon could feasibly be stored in kimberlite tailings, meaning we could ultimately offset more emissions than we are producing.”

Mineral carbonation is a natural or artificial process whereby rocks at the Earth’s surface react with carbon dioxide sourced from the atmosphere and lock it away in safe, non-toxic, solid carbonate materials – taking that form in kimberlite rock in this instance. De Beers Group CEO, Bruce Cleaver, 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, addresses the challenge of reducing its carbon footprint. “By investing in ground-breaking projects such as this, aligned with the FutureSmart Mining™ innovation programme of our parent company, Anglo American, we have the real potential to leave a positive, long-lasting legacy for the global mining industry.” De Beers started the project in 2016.

Report to Society - De Beers pays $5 billion to partners

In a second press release today, De Beers announced the publication of its 62-page Report to Society, entitled "Building Forever", in which it details the their returns to governments, communities, supply chain partners and its joint venture partners - the contributions to which 26 per cent to US$5 billion in 2016. The increase, delivered through taxes, payments for goods and services and dividends. They also state that De Beers Group generated further socio-economic benefit for its partners through the sale of US$1.4 billion of rough diamonds to local cutting and polishing businesses within its producer countries – a more than 70 per cent increase on 2015 – as part of its in-country beneficiation strategy.

The Report to Society is available in annex, as is a fact sheet on their carbon-neutral mining research program.