Vale’s so-called sustainable sand and green cement initiatives are part of the mining industry’s effort to clean up its own operations and supply chains as the world battles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to develop successful ventures into a type of corporate venture capital, Nogueira said in an interview.
The cement project is still in development while sand mining started with a modest 250,000 metric tonnes before increasing to at least 1 million tonnes next year. Vale could potentially produce 50 million tonnes, roughly what its iron ore tailings contain. This compares to Brazil’s sand market of over 300 million tonnes and the global industry of around 40 billion tonnes, most of which comes from illegal dredging.
“Sand is an essential commodity for the world and has a lot of impact on the environment due to the dredging of rivers,” Nogueira said.
Beyond cement and pavement, Vale is exploring other uses for sand, such as ceramics. Universities in Australia and Switzerland are studying the possible applications of sand made from minerals, using Vale as a case study.
(By James Attwood, with help from Mariana Durao)