[How To] Save on Operational Costs with Solar Power
Mining precious metals is a costly business. While the process can be extremely lucrative, mining companies face an array of expensive challenges like maintaining productivity, safety, equipment, and profitability. Couple that with uncertain commodity prices and mining can be downright astronomical.
Mining companies are fighting back though. Companies are finding ways to cut operational costs through innovative measures and doing more with less. Rio Tinto for example, one of the largest mining companies in the world, has recently partnered with one of the larger solar-panel makers in the United States to help save on fuel costs. First Solar and Ingenero Pty have agreed to provide solar power to Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite mine in Queensland state, which will allow the company to not only receive an Australian tax break, but provide a more efficient and cleaner solution in almost all aspects of its business.
“Having a company like Rio go into this space sends a pretty strong message to the rest of the industry,” Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Sydney-based vice president of business development for the Asia-Pacific, said in an interview. “We’ve already seen a good uptick in interest in these projects from companies like Rio, and we think that will accelerate on the back of this announcement.”
First Solar is seeking to develop as much as 200 megawatts of capacity for the mining industry over three years. The company is also talking to other mining companies to provide additional hybrid projects that will provide reliable energy supply to operations trough solar technology.
The project between Rio Tinto and First Solar will start with 1.7 megawatts and could potentially add an additional five megawatts. The first phase of the project will generate enough electricity to offset as much as 20 percent of the daytime demand while also reducing the company’s diesel use.
The project “is the first one of any meaningful size that is being done globally with a company of Rio’s prominence and size, so there’s a real potential to export this as a pilot to a much broader global audience,” Curtis said.
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.