Wind to anchor carbon-neutral diamonds agenda

By Hilary Mare

THE De Beers Group has said that it will opt for wind energy in its joint ventures in Namibia as a vehicle towards becoming a miner and marketer of carbon-neutral diamonds by the year 2030.

The world’s largest producer of diamonds by value is setting out to achieve this not only in Namibia but also at its other mines in Botswana, Canada and South Africa.
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While wind power is primed for Namibia, the diamond miner will opt for solar energy in Botswana and South Africa.

De Beers Group head of carbon neutrality Kirsten Hund last week explained that in Namibia, offshore of which marine diamond extraction from the seabed takes place, the wind reserve is so substantial and the electricity generated could potentially also be sent to neighbouring Botswana and South Africa using the Southern African power pool.

“But our challenge is also going to be the marine fuel that powers our ships. We have a series of technical working groups in place within the organisation and one is specifically focussed on the ships. We’re looking to alternative fuel for the ships, as are a number of others in the world today.
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Ammonia, which is a carrier of hydrogen, is one option but, again, this is such a rapidly evolving field that everything is still at the research stage,” said Hund.

Rather than buying carbon offsets on the market, De Beers Group is going all out to find carbon-neutrality solutions within its own operations and on the land that is within the scope of its control and that it supports.

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“It is crucial that we do this together with our stakeholders, the communities where we operate, the regulators, governments and the countries where we work, our shareholders, our suppliers, our employees and our consumers. This is not something we can do by ourselves, this is not something that we can just make up in an office, or work on with the engineers.

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“It really requires a shift in thinking and doing, from all of us within the De Beers Group, and all along our value chain, so that we really create a carbon neutral value chain that lives up to the wonderful brilliance of natural diamonds.”

Hund also said that the group was not only working with its joint venture partners in Botswana and Namibia, and its managed operations in South Africa and Canada to achieve the carbon neutrality goal but was working with downstream businesses  consisting of jewellers and diamond traders.

“We aim to do this by reducing the energy intensity of everything we do, from making sure that all equipment runs as efficiently as possible and replacing equipment that does not. Further we will replace fossil electricity with renewable energy and storage, and replace fossil fuels with green fuels, such as green hydrogen and ammonia and recover carbon emissions through CarbonVaultTM, the trade-marked company innovative research programme that aims to harness the natural powers of kimberlite, the rock in which diamonds are found, to capture carbon from the atmosphere, locking it away for millions of years,” said Hund, who joined De Beers Group from the World Bank.

Feasibility studies at some mines are well advanced said Hund adding that: “The idea is to provide solar and wind energy by working in partnership with others, and to see, in some cases, if we can sell or put clean electricity that we won’t be using back into the grid.

“We will work on this in partnership with governments of the countries in which we operate. There is also potential for excess electricity to be used to generate green hydrogen, which can be converted into electricity using fuel cells to drive trucks and provide transport. That’s the plan.”