Hatch has high hopes for a low-carbon future for Australian mining and energy

4 November 2021

Hatch is a global engineering, construction and management heavyweight, focusing on mining, energy and infrastructure. The company helps clients reduce their carbon footprints and adopt sustainable habits. Some of its most innovative solutions are coming out of Australia.

Hatch positions itself as a company that can tackle the world’s toughest challenges. Australia–Asia Managing Director, Jan Kwak, explains why Australia is a natural fit for Hatch:

  • major spending in the mining, energy and infrastructure sectors
  • mining and energy companies committed to miminimising their environmental impact
  • dynamic Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) propelling innovation.

A market for people with unique know-how

Brisbane-based Hatch is a principal player in mining, energy and infrastructure across the region. In 25 years, it has grown its Australian workforce to 900. It has also set up offices in China, Indonesia, India and the South Pacific.

The company works in 150 countries and has close to 10,000 staff. ‘We go where there’s major activity,’ says Kwak.

Australia is a top producer and exporter of minerals and fuels. These include iron ore, coal, natural gas, gold, aluminium and copper. It has developed a world-leading mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

‘We first came to Australia 25 years ago because BHP and Rio Tinto needed our help,’ says Kwak. ‘Today we are part of the fabric of a huge Australian mining industry. It’s a terrific market for people that can do unique things and create positive change.’

Building towards a low-carbon future

Mining is carbon intensive. Mining companies are looking for ways to minimise their environmental impact. Hatch is leaning in, helping clients decarbonise and embrace cleaner, renewable energy practices.

‘We’re asking what a future low-carbon world looks like in mining, energy and infrastructure,’ Kwak says. ‘We’re getting a lot of traction in Australia. There’s a lot of spending in these sectors.’

Hatch is working on Sun Cable’s Australia-Asia Power Link project in the Northern Territory, the world’s largest solar energy structure. One of its tasks is to find the best method to connect renewables to the grid.

It is also involved in Arafura Resources’ critical minerals project near Alice Springs. Critical minerals are essential to powering emissions reduction technology, such as electric vehicles.

‘Climate change is the big challenge,’ he says. ‘We’re focused on bringing technical solutions that bring positive change.’

SunCable_AA_Powerlink_Hatch

Caption: Hatch is part of a joint venture engaged to deliver Sun Cable’s ambitious Australia-Asia Power Link project. It will deliver 3.2GW of dispatchable power from the NT to decarbonise up to 15% of Singapore's electricity supply.

Repurposing industrial sites for post-industrial use

Tailings – the waste from processing mined ore – are a target. Hatch aims to manage them responsibly, and, one day, make them redundant. The technology is evolving. For now, it’s about transitioning sites.

‘We need to make that land valuable again, repurpose it as quickly as possible,’ says Kwak. ‘We want to make sure there’s no lasting footprint after a facility closes.’

Hatch is doing just that at the decommissioned Alcoa aluminium smelter in Point Henry, Victoria. The company is working with urban planners to reimagine the former industrial site.

It is doing likewise at Rio Tinto’s Gove mine and the ERA mine in the Northern Territory. ‘We need to create value for the community that still lives there,’ Kwak says.

‘We’re also working with mayors and local councils of mining communities in Mt Isa and Tom Price. We’re looking at ways the community can generate wealth without the mine. When the mine is gone, a residual value will remain.’

Exporting Australian ideas to the world

The climate-smart company is developing services in Australia and taking them global. Its participation in a CRC-ORE program led to the creation of Grade Engineering. It is a set of technologies that helps miners reduce their environmental footprint while boosting productivity.

‘The CRC programs are world class,’ says Kwak. ‘Australia is a small nation with big, groundbreaking ideas. For one, it’s a world leader in mineral processing.

‘We’ve had great successes from things that Australia does very well. For example, we learned about managing automated container ports here and built a digital product. The work we do in Australia reinforces our business in other parts of the world.’

Austrade: a convenor of networks

Kwak says an important element of Hatch’s success is strong networks. Austrade is very good at pulling together businesses and peak bodies to talk about important topics. It’s a convenor of networks. It has the ability to create an entry point into markets around the world.’

In 2019, Austrade organised the first Australian Indigenous trade mission to Canada. Hatch hosted the delegation in its Toronto offices.

‘That opened us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of connecting,’ says Kwak. ‘It motivated us to be more inclusive of indigenous communities and what we do in them. A great outcome.’

Coming together with industry and government

Austrade has recently been helping Hatch forge networks in Australia’s hydrogen sector.

We’re working with the Green Hydrogen Consortium in Australia,’ says Kwak. ‘It is focused on accelerating the decarbonisation of the mining sector. Green hydrogen is still a nut to crack. But we are making big strides forward in these industry consortia.

‘There’s a lot of excellent thought leadership that comes out of the Australian market.’

Hatch has also worked closely with state governments. ‘When you’re starting out in Australia, state governments are your best allies,’ says Kwak. ‘After 25 years of business in Australia, those networks remain. We find state governments are well connected to what’s happening in the sectors in their jurisdictions.

‘There are structures that enable markets to work effectively. The governments here do that very well.’

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