Twins Johnathan and Henry Taitt grew up on a farm in Tasmania but left home seeking a life of adventure working outdoors.
- Small drilling contractor Red Rock Drilling is the first business of its kind in Australia to achieve carbon-neutral certification
- The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies praised the small business for being “innovative” and showing “forward thinking”
- Around 100 companies have been certified carbon neutral in Australia, offsetting a combined 22 million tonnes of carbon emissions
They found it in Western Australia’s mining industry, and today they are partners in a small drilling business that explores for rich mineral deposits.
Red Rock Drilling was founded in Kalgoorlie-Boulder six years ago and the brothers employ three staff working on a single drill rig.
“I just love it; it’s an adventure because you’re going into all sorts of remote locations,” Johnathan said.
“I’ve really enjoyed it from day one, it’s the hard work, sleeping in a swag in the bush.
The 38-year-olds admit they work in a “dirty industry”.
They mean that both literally and figuratively — from their high-vis work clothes covered in red dirt at the end of a shift to the perception, rightly or wrongly, that the mining industry is not doing enough to combat climate change.
But they are working to shed that tag and have become the first drilling contractor in Australia to achieve carbon-neutral certification.
The process is coordinated by the Federal Government’s Climate Active group, which encourages businesses to drive voluntary climate action.
As part of the six-month certification process, Red Rock Drilling’s carbon footprint was determined to be around 482 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.
By far the biggest pollutant was diesel with the company’s drill rig burning through 900 to 1,150 litres of diesel in a 12-hour shift.
A litre of diesel creates more than two kilograms of carbon emissions for every litre burned, Johnathan Taitt said.
“We’re a small company with only one drill rig,” he said.
Drillers work to reduce carbon footprint
The next step was the implementation of an emissions reduction strategy.
Red Rock Drilling has now committed to the installation of solar panels, offsetting flights, increasing recycling to reduce waste sent to landfill, buying carbon neutral paper, and the introduction of biodegradable lubricants.
They are also paying to offset 530 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by supporting a wind energy project in India.
“I think it’s a demonstration that it can be done,” he said.
“Obviously people are talking about climate change in society now, it’s everywhere.
“As a company, we’re in a position where we can make a difference, and we obviously create, comparatively to other small businesses, quite a lot of carbon emissions, so we thought: ‘What can we do to do our bit?'”
WA has a ‘leadership role’
Around 100 companies have been certified carbon neutral in Australia by Climate Active.
Together they offset around 22 million tonnes of carbon, which the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources claims is the equivalent to taking all of Sydney’s cars off the road for two years.
Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said more businesses needed to follow the example of Red Rock Drilling.
“Parts of the mining industry are going to be essential in any transition to a clean, renewable energy future,” he said.
“That means reducing and eliminating carbon emissions in all parts of the value chain for mining, so it’s important not just for the big mining companies to do this but small companies like Red Rock Drilling are reducing their emissions.”
Internationally there are several certification agencies including Gold Standard, which partnered with the Mongolian Government in July to work towards meeting its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement.
The agreement was ratified in 2016 when Australia indicated it would reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
‘Innovative’ for small business to take lead
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) chief executive Warren Pearce praised Red Rock Drilling for achieving carbon-neutral certification, describing it as “innovative” and showing “forward thinking”.
He said they had upstaged companies with bigger financial muscle.
“It’s really exciting to see a small local company taking the lead on an issue like this,” Mr Pearce said.
“We can see community expectations on the industry are changing … and this is simply an evolution of the way in which we work.”
Aussie gold mines emit at high intensity
Clearly there is a long way to go.
A new report by Toronto-based analyst Christopher Galbraith, from S&P Global Market Intelligence, has found Australian gold mines have some of the highest greenhouse gas intensity in the world.
Only Russia was a bigger emitter and that was because both countries derived a large share of their power generation from coal-fired plants.
Mr Galbraith reviewed more than 90 gold mines across the world and found, for every ounce of gold produced, underground mines emitted less than half the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent compared with open pits.
According to the report, the Fosterville underground mine in Victoria had the highest greenhouse gas intensity of any Australian gold mine — emitting 263 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per thousand tonnes of ore processed.
In KPMG’s 2020 Global Mining Risk Survey in January, before COVID-19 was recognised as a serious global threat, 46 per cent of Australian mining bosses surveyed named climate change risk among their key concerns for the coming year.
Mr Pearce said the resources sector’s reputation as a “dirty industry” was true in some respects, but he pointed to major advances in recent years.
Companies like iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, which had committed to achieving net zero operational emissions by 2040, were industry leaders, he said.
“I certainly think the industry’s reputation is out of kilter with what we know our companies are now doing and working towards,” Mr Pearce said.
“It’s going to continue to be in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a business that looks after the environment.
“I think you’re seeing a real drive in our industry towards carbon-neutral practices.”