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MUMBAI : Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), the world’s second-largest miner of zinc, lead and silver, will invest $1 billion over the next five years to make its mining operations environment-friendly, chief executive Arun Misra said.

HZL is planning to expand its zinc, lead and silver mining capacity from 1.2 million tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes. The company currently deploys 600-700 underground mining equipment, which could go up to 900 after expansion, Misra said in a phone interview from the Dubai Expo 2020.

“Most of the equipment is run on either diesel or cable power. So, this year, we are trying on two sets of battery-operated equipment. In five years, all equipment that goes for replacement (nearly 200 equipment are replaced every year), we would induct only electric and battery-operated equipment, and that would see the mines being free from diesel consumption and have a low carbon footprint," Misra said.

The company plans to charge the equipment with its captive capacity of 40MW of solar power and 275MW of wind power. “For India Inc. to move to net-zero, the government has to work out a favourable policy to help industries to transition. The need is real, and the timing is perfect. In fact, it should have been done yesterday. I am sure by 2035 I see at least 30% of India Inc. moving to renewable power consumption," Misra said, adding all countries need to do their fair share in responding to climate change.

In India, while Reliance Industries Ltd plans to go net carbon zero by 2030, Aditya Birla Group’s Birla Carbon, a maker of carbon black, has targeted 2050. The Adani Group plans to triple its renewable power generation capacity over the next four years to 63% of its output from 21% now and turn its ports net carbon zero by 2025.

Net-zero means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and then balancing out any further releases by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere, for instance, by planting trees.

“Developed countries must take the lead in sustainable financing, clean technology transfer and partnership, and the rest of the emerging economies will ramp up their carbon-neutral journey," Misra added.

HZL this week joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which will allow it to work with TNFD members to provide a market-led framework to report and act on evolving nature-related risks. TNFD will organize outreach programmes across geographies to raise awareness about the criticality of climate change and play a significant role in helping to tackle environmental and biodiversity loss, helping in transitioning towards a positive environmental future.

On the pricing front, Misra said while zinc should stabilize at around $2,800 a tonne to $3,100 a tonne, he is not sure about precious metals such as gold and silver, which have both seen a downward trend.

HZL, which is planning to set up a fertilizer plant, is in the process of appointing a CEO for the fertilizer business. “We will soon have a professional CEO to run the fertilizer business We are on the drawing board, we are working on the environment clearance side, and I am hoping this fiscal should see the reality of our fertilizer project," Misra said.

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