Perhaps many do not realise, but today one of the world's most strategic raw materials is not so much copper, but increasingly green. Why? Copper is a key metal for driving Green Deal processes. And the process of extracting the raw material itself is also becoming greener.
22 million tonnes - an astronomical figure? That is how much copper is needed to develop technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union by 75%. This metal is widely used in activities that are key to creating a low-carbon economy. Turbines in wind power plants, photovoltaic plants, motors in electric and hybrid cars - these are just the most important examples.
KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. is clear - there is no European Green Deal without non-ferrous metals.
"The main contribution of Polska Miedź to the fight against climate change are our products, without which it would not be possible to popularise green technologies in the energy and transport sectors. We also continue our efforts to minimise the environmental footprint of the Company itself", emphasises Marcin Chludziński, President of the Management Board of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.
CLIMATE POLICY COMMITMENT
These efforts are realised in specific undertakings. Ecology is already one of the four pillars of the company's development strategy (alongside efficiency, flexibility and e-industry). But this is not the end. Work is currently underway on a separate document on the company's climate policy. It is intended to confirm the systemic nature of the copper giant's approach to emissions management.
"We are a socially responsible company that listens carefully to the needs of our environment. The climate policy that is being prepared will not only meet the expectations of our stakeholders but, above all, will help in the commitment and efforts made to care for the state of our planet. Our strategy only confirms this," explains Marcin Chludziński, President of the Copper Company.
KGHM IS REFORESTING LOWER SILESIA
The strategy is one thing. What about practical action? There are plenty of these. KGHM actively supports reforestation in the areas in which it operates. Głogów smelter alone planted nearly 107 thousand tree and shrub seedlings in 2020 on a total planting area of around 15 hectares.
In total, KGHM contributed to the reforestation of over 30 hectares of land last year. It has thus made a significant contribution to improving air quality in the region. Scientific research indicates that one hectare of pine forest absorbs up to 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
ENERGY FROM OWN SOURCES AND RES
Another aspect in which KGHM's pro-environmental approach can be seen is in the power industry. By 2030, the company wants to source half of the energy it needs from its own sources, including Renewable Energy Sources.
In the past year, 22.42% of total energy consumption in KGHM was covered by its own sources, including the Gas-Steam Blocks, which will achieve record electricity production in 2020. They produced a total of more than 0.5 TWh of energy, representing nearly 16% of the Company's total demand. As part of its own transformation, the Group is also carrying out projects to build its own photovoltaic installations, the operation of which will allow avoiding more than 8 thousand tonnes of emissions, CO2 and other nitrogen and sulphur compounds, as well as dust, per year.
Investments in own sources, including RES, will benefit both the environment and the company's cost efficiency. These can bring savings of up to several tens of millions of PLN a year.
REDUCTION OF EMISSIONS FROM SMELTERS
Reducing the harmful impact on the environment also applies to KGHM's smelters. Arsenic emissions have been progressively reduced for a long time already. This is related to the implementation of BAT conclusions for the non-ferrous metal industry. Due to a number of investments, the parameters achieved are maintained at much better levels than those required by law.
SLAG AND ITS SECOND LIFE
KGHM is also implementing solutions related to the Circular Economy. One of these is the production of road aggregates from post-copper slag. Slag is a waste product of the production process in smelters. Due to our knowledge and technology, this material is not sent to landfill, but is reused. With the solutions available to companies from the KGHM Group, the waste is processed into a full-value product used in road construction as high quality aggregates.
What's more, the process of producing aggregates based on material supplied by the smelter also reduces the emissions that would be generated around the process of traditional aggregate extraction. Over the last decade, KGHM Metraco, a company belonging to the KGHM Group, processed around 10 million tonnes of slag. It is easy to imagine how much waste would be generated from extracting this raw material naturally.
Prudent management can also be seen in scrap management. At present, more than 20% of the electrolytic copper produced in Lower Silesia comes from copper-bearing materials. According to the group's strategy, this should ultimately account for as much as one-third of production. This is the realisation of global mega-trends and is in line with trends within the EU.
Let us look at the figures. The WTR (Rotary-Casting-Refining Furnace) put into operation at Legnica smelter enables smelting of copper scrap with an average content of 89%. In 2020 alone, 91 thousand tonnes of scrap metal were processed here.
ELECTROMOBILITY AND LOW-EMISSION MINING MACHINES
KGHM has been developing this aspect in its operations for many years. The company's transport fleet is consistently being replaced with emission-free electric vehicles. The company is also developing a network of publicly available ultra-fast charging stations in the Copper Belt.
In addition, bearing in mind environmental and climate protection, as well as caring for the health and comfort of employees, the company is implementing measures to reduce emissions from mining machinery engines. Currently, around 10% of the machines in use at the company are low-emission machines, and all new vehicles have engines with the highest standards of exhaust cleanliness.
ON THE GREEN TRAIL
All of the above examples show the importance for KGHM of realising its strategic objectives related to ecology. This is in line with the idea of Sustainable Development, which states that responsible business must take into account not only the efficiency of operations, but also their impact on the environment.
This is why the green trail the company has embarked on is not just a temporary stop. It is a deliberately chosen path that the company will continue to follow.
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