The framework for reducing energy consumption in mining
One of the most common ongoing challenges for mining companies is minimizing energy consumption. Due to the energy-intensive nature of mining, it’s the one variable every company would love to control.
In the United States, fossil fuels represent the largest portion of a mine’s total energy use at 35 percent, followed by electricity at 32 percent. Along with resulting in significant savings, reducing energy consumption at a mine can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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As commodity prices remain stagnate and operating costs go up, the time is now for mining companies to investigate renewable energy sources and shed their reliance on external energy sources. We present the framework to achieve this.
Develop a plan
Sounds simple enough but developing a solid plan is critical to reducing energy consumption in mining. A thorough plan should outline the company’s objectives while revealing short and long-term goals to achieve it. It should also establish a starting base in order to consistently evaluate and fine-tune actions. Never underestimate the powers of a thorough plan
Choose a management system
Once the plan is developed, it’s time to choose an energy management strategy. They’re great tools to streamline processes as they are tied directly to mine production systems, providing consumption data. In fact, these management systems can provide:
• Real-time energy consumption.
• Energy consumption forecasting based on specific parameters.
• Establishing optimal energy consumption targets for each mine area.
• Identifying and quantifying consumption above targets.
• Identifying and analyzing root causes of over-consumption.
• Reporting of over-consumption and changes in daily consumption.
• Understanding energy drivers such as process variables linked to energy consumption.
• Real-time calculation of sustainability Key Performance Indicators, such as kWh/t.
• Providing validated data to justify future capital investments and/or process changes.
• Creating energy models to forecast energy consumption and to determine energy targets.
Once the management system is selected, and a company has reviewed its regular energy consumption, the next step is to invest. One of the main products at the core of an energy efficiency strategy is smart meters. These unique devices have the ability to deliver critical information such as voltage, current, neutral and earth current, power, frequency, power factor, demand, energy and time-of-use metering from the mine loads.
Smart mining breakers are another potential investment as they assist in obtaining actionable energy data, including:
• kWh meters helps optimize costs and their allocation.
• Harmonic distortion rates show the quality of the electrical supply.
• Alarm notifications help secure operational control and maintenance planning.
• Continuously activated event logs and tables ensure equipment operates correctly, thus maximizing energy efficiency.
The real trick to reducing energy consumption is through continuous improvement. By continually monitoring, tweaking and reporting new updates, companies can steadily improve system stability and unplanned downtime. In addition, such systems can assist in tracking and investigating frequency stability, voltage variations, imbalances, harmonics and other conditions in order to maintain a high level of power quality, including resolving problems before they develop.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.