The Pacific Ring of Fire
From bubbling pits of lava to deep ocean sinkholes and everything in between, the Earth is full of geological wonders. The Pacific Ring of Fire is a prime example of one such marvel. Like a necklace of pearls, this long belt of active and inactive volcanoes spans 40,000 km along the tectonic plate boundaries of the Pacific Ocean.
While many people see volcanoes as something to fear, for the mining industry, they can present huge potential. In fact, ancient inactive volcanoes could eventually become profitable mines. With 75% of the earth’s volcanoes and 90% of all earthquakes, the Pacific Ring of Fire is home to many rich mineral deposits, such as gold, copper, molybdenum, and other metals.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Kalo Gold and highlights how the Pacific Ring of Fire’s geology enables the potential for mineral discovery.
Magmas to Metals: Mineral Deposits on the Pacific Ring of Fire
Volcanic activity at tectonic plate boundaries reveals the natural processes of creation and destruction that shape the Earth along its Pacific Rim. The Pacific Ring of Fire is built on two types of tectonic plate boundaries:
Two tectonic plates moving towards each other, where the oceanic crust often subducts under the continental crust.
Two tectonic plates moving away from each other, often resulting in rifts and earthquakes.
It is at these subduction zones where volcanic and seismic activity aids the formation of mineral deposits. The subduction of one plate under the other creates immense pressure, forcing the hot magma that lies beneath the crust to rise towards the surface. This magma transports minerals that solidify when hydrothermal fluids (or magmatic water) rise and cool off, sometimes creating mineable deposits of valuable minerals.
Subduction zones in the Pacific Ring of Fire host the vast majority of the earth’s porphyry deposits and several epithermal deposits. Porphyry deposits contain copper, gold, and molybdenum, whereas epithermal deposits typically bear gold and silver.
However, turning a deposit into a mine requires much more than just the presence of minerals. Although mineral deposits are found all around the Ring, some regions have produced many more discoveries than others.
The Edge of Discovery: The South Pacific
The South Pacific has proven itself as one of the most productive regions for gold and copper mining along the Ring.
The region hosts the famous Grasberg mine, one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, along with other prolific discoveries like the Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea, and the Cadia mine in Australia. But as these existing mines deplete, the opportunity lies in making new discoveries.
Fiji: The Next Edge of Discovery on the Pacific Ring of Fire
Fiji has a lot to offer to the mining industry with its prime location along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Fijian islands are endowed with rich deposits of gold, copper, and zinc. Fiji’s history of gold mining goes back to the 1930s with the Vatukoula mine, which is still in operation today. Furthermore, Fiji topped the Fraser Institute’s 2018 rankings of mining jurisdictions in Oceania in both investment and policy attractiveness.
Fiji’s government supports ethical exploration because the mining industry brings economic benefits to the country. In fact, gold has consistently been one of Fiji’s largest exports:
|Year||Amount of Gold Exported||Gold (as % Share of Total Exports|
Following a period of steady decline between 2010-2015, Fiji’s gold exports peaked in 2016 at 3,777 kg—making up 6.26% of its total exports. In 2019, gold was Fiji’s sixth-largest export, generating more than $50 million in value.
Fiji: Ready for the Next Big Gold Discovery
Fiji remains a hub of exploration activity with several mining companies on the hunt for its next big discovery.
The presence of Vatukoula, Fiji’s largest gold mine containing 10 million ounces of gold, suggests that other large gold deposits are waiting to be found. Although recent discoveries in Fiji do not come close to the Vatukoula’s grand size, it’s only a matter of time before Fiji reveals its treasure.
Ranked: Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities
Roughly 25% of all GHG emissions come from electricity production. See how the top 30 IOUs rank by emissions per capita.
Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities
Approximately 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come from electricity generation.
Subsequently, this means investor-owned utilities (IOUs) will have a crucial role to play around carbon reduction initiatives. This is particularly true for the top 30 IOUs, where almost 75% of utility customers get their electricity from.
This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council ranks the largest IOUs by emissions per capita. By accounting for the varying customer bases they serve, we get a more accurate look at their green energy practices. Here’s how they line up.
Per Capita Rankings
The emissions per capita rankings for the top 30 investor-owned utilities have large disparities from one another.
Totals range from a high of 25.8 tons of CO2 per customer annually to a low of 0.5 tons.
|Utility||Emissions Per Capita (CO2 tons per year)||Total Emissions (M)|
|Berkshire Hathaway Energy||14.0||57.2|
|American Electric Power||9.2||50.9|
|Florida Power and Light||8.0||41.0|
|Portland General Electric||7.6||6.9|
|Pacific Gas and Electric||0.5||2.6|
|Next Era Energy Resources||0||1.1|
PNM Resources data is from 2019, all other data is as of 2020
Let’s start by looking at the higher scoring IOUs.
TransAlta emits 25.8 tons of CO2 emissions per customer, the largest of any utility on a per capita basis. Altogether, the company’s 630,000 customers emit 16.3 million metric tons. On a recent earnings call, its management discussed clear intent to phase out coal and grow their renewables mix by doubling their renewables fleet. And so far it appears they’ve been making good on their promise, having shut down the Canadian Highvale coal mine recently.
Vistra had the highest total emissions at 97 million tons of CO2 per year and is almost exclusively a coal and gas generator. However, the company announced plans for 60% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030 and is striving to be carbon neutral by 2050. As the highest total emitter, this transition would make a noticeable impact on total utility emissions if successful.
Currently, based on their 4.3 million customers, Vistra sees per capita emissions of 22.4 tons a year. The utility is a key electricity provider for Texas, ad here’s how their electricity mix compares to that of the state as a whole:
|Energy Source||Vistra||State of Texas|
Despite their ambitious green energy pledges, for now only 1% of Vistra’s electricity comes from renewables compared to 24% for Texas, where wind energy is prospering.
Based on those scores, the average customer from some of the highest emitting utility groups emit about the same as a customer from each of the bottom seven, who clearly have greener energy practices. Let’s take a closer look at emissions for some of the bottom scoring entities.
Utilities With The Greenest Energy Practices
Groups with the lowest carbon emission scores are in many ways leaders on the path towards a greener future.
Exelon emits only 3.8 tons of CO2 emissions per capita annually and is one of the top clean power generators across the Americas. In the last decade they’ve reduced their GHG emissions by 18 million metric tons, and have recently teamed up with the state of Illinois through the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Through this, Exelon will receive $700 million in subsidies as it phases out coal and gas plants to meet 2030 and 2045 targets.
Consolidated Edison serves nearly 4 million customers with a large chunk coming from New York state. Altogether, they emit 1.6 tons of CO2 emissions per capita from their electricity generation.
The utility group is making notable strides towards a sustainable future by expanding its renewable projects and testing higher capacity limits. In addition, they are often praised for their financial management and carry the title of dividend aristocrat, having increased their dividend for 47 years and counting. In fact, this is the longest out of any utility company in the S&P 500.
A Sustainable Tomorrow
Altogether, utilities will have a pivotal role to play in decarbonization efforts. This is particularly true for the top 30 U.S. IOUs, who serve millions of Americans.
Ultimately, this means a unique moment for utilities is emerging. As the transition toward cleaner energy continues and various groups push to achieve their goals, all eyes will be on utilities to deliver.
The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource to learn how utilities can lead in the path towards decarbonization.
The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet
The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills.
The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet
Asphalt, also known as bitumen, has various applications in the modern economy, with annual demand reaching 110 million tons globally.
Until the 20th century, natural asphalt made from decomposed plants accounted for the majority of asphalt production. Today, most asphalt is refined from crude oil.
This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows how new technologies to reuse and recycle asphalt can help protect the environment.
The Impact of Climate Change
Pollution from vehicles is expected to decline as electric vehicles replace internal combustion engines.
But pollution from asphalt could actually increase in the next decades because of rising temperatures in some parts of the Earth. When subjected to extreme temperatures, asphalt releases harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.
|Emissions from Road Construction (Source)||CO2 equivalent (%)|
|Excavators and Haulers||16%|
Asphalt paved surfaces and roofs make up approximately 45% and 20% of surfaces in U.S. cities, respectively. Furthermore, 75% of single-family detached homes in Canada and the U.S. have asphalt shingles on their roofs.
Reducing the Environmental Impact of Asphalt
Similar to roads, asphalt shingles have oil as the primary component, which is especially harmful to the environment.
Shingles do not decompose or biodegrade. The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills, the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil.
But most of it can be reused, rather than taking up valuable landfill space.
Using technology, the primary components in shingles can be repurposed into liquid asphalt, aggregate, and fiber, for use in road construction, embankments, and new shingles.
Providing the construction industry with clean, sustainable processing solutions is also a big business opportunity. Canada alone is a $1.3 billion market for recovering and reprocessing shingles.
Northstar Clean Technologies is the only public company that repurposes 99% of asphalt shingles components that otherwise go to landfills.
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