Mining and its Role in Clean Technology

There is the natural synergy between mining and clean technology. Extracted raw materials are transformed into technology that, having gone full circle, assist mining operations in reducing environmental footprints and enhancing efficiency and reliability. These same products and technologies are driving performance improvements, efficiency gains, and a lower carbon footprint across society.

As primary materials, mining products will remain fundamental to the Canadian economy as it transitions toward a lower carbon future. As the mining industry continues to improve its environmental performance, so will its products continue to shape the world in which we live. The examples below help to underscore the essential role that mining will continue to play in society’s transition toward a lower carbon future.

Lower Carbon Energy:

  • Wind Turbines: o Steelmaking coal – approximately 100 tons of steelmaking coal is necessary to produce the steel to build the average wind turbine.

o Copper – While the amount of copper in a wind turbine will vary from model to model, it is estimated that the average 1.8 MW wind turbine contains approximately 3175 kg of copper.

o A single wind turbine generally contains 500 kg of nickel.

  • Solar Power: o Most solar photovoltaic systems use silicon cells to turn the sun’s rays into energy. Germanium solar cells are also in solar photovoltaic systems.

o Silver makes up 90% of a glass paste applied along the top and bottom of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.

  • High-Efficiency Natural Gas: o Natural gas boilers come in cast-iron, steel, copper, aluminum and other materials fit-for-purpose to maximize efficiency relative to intended use.

o Upgrading a natural gas furnace or boiler from 56% to 90% efficiency in an average cold-climate house will save 1.4 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

  • Nuclear Power: o Nuclear reactors generate safe and reliable base-load electricity using small amounts of uranium and do not emit greenhouse gasses.


o The basic fuel for a nuclear power reactor is uranium— Canada is one of the world’s largest uranium producers and is a global leader in nuclear research and technology.

o A typical nuclear reactor uses up to 20 different nickel alloys.



  • Light Rail: o Approximately 30,000 tons of steelmaking coal was required to build Vancouver’s Canada Line, which accommodates approximately 3 million passenger trips a month.


  • Electric Cars: o The average electric car contains 75 kg of copper wiring – three times as much as a conventional vehicle.

o Lithium, aluminum, nickel, cadmium, cobalt and zinc are key ingredients of new and emerging battery technologies. For example, cars powered by nickel hydride batteries produce 50% less pollution and GHGs than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.


  • Fuel and Emission Efficient Vehicles: o Displacing steel with aluminum and other high strength lightweight materials in the automotive, rail and aviation industries reduces total vehicle weight, enabling greater distance traveled per liter of fuel consumption, reducing net emissions.

o Platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold are used in catalytic converters to convert pollutants in exhaust gas from internal combustion engines.