Australian Fugitive Methane Reduction a case study for coal mining

Author(s) N. Wasimi, J. Webby, E. Seow
Published in AusIMM Bulletin, 25 Feb 2022.

The Australian mining industry leads the world in introducing new innovative technology like automated trucks and driverless trains.

The latest topic in mining decarbonisation, fugitive methane, poses a unique and significant opportunity for the coal sector to reduce its carbon footprint and the impacts of climate change. This paper discusses the drivers for a renewed effort from the coal sector and highlights the expansion challenges.

Fugitive emissions are a large contributor to Australia’s mining industry greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. This is due to the high climate change impact of methane, and the scale of the coal mining industry. Mine owners and governments can expect increasing pressure from host communities and international markets to expand reduction efforts.

Today, there are several commercial technologies and arrangements to reduce fugitive emissions, but more can and should be done. It is important to establish an understanding of the facts, the current solutions, and potential solutions in development. A combination of expanded pre-drainage practices, commercialising Vent Air Methane (VAM) abatement technology, and carbon prices will enable these fugitive technology investments to become economically viable.

Ultimately, we recommend all coal mines (underground and open cut) to consider expanding fugitive reduction technology, seeking support from research and investors, and planning to avoid future liability.