How-To: Utilize Solar and Wind Energy in Your Mining Operations
Over the last few years the archaic perception of the mining industry has changed. The sector has shifted to realign focus on environmental initiatives and alternative energy sources, while staying committed to financial prosperity. The combination has been a win-win.
One of the most drastic changes mining companies have embarked on is alternative energy.
According to a recent article by EcoMatters.com, the United States and China have both commenced initiatives to make solar power competitive with coal-powered electricity.
“CleanTechnica reported last week that for systems with the right economies of scale -- 10 megawatts or higher -- solar power can now be generated for between $70 and $100 per megawatt hour. That is four times lower than in 2009. China and the United States both have plans to make solar competitive with coal-powered electricity within a few years.”
South Africa’s third largest gold miner, Harmony Gold, has been on the forefront of utilizing solar into its electricity mix.
According to PV Insider, “The the company has started building a 5- to 7-megawatt solar park in Free State province, and another 18-MW facility in North West province, with the goal of alleviating pressure on peak energy usage.”
The company is also working to use mine-impact land and tailings to pilot biocrop procreating in the form of giant king grass and sugar beet. By combining renewable with bioenergy and land rehabilitation, Harmony Gold will be able to use the biocrops as feedstock to generate natural gas as a fossil fuel substitute.
Another major company to implement alternative energy is Glencore. The commodity trader recently installed a 3MW wind turbine and energy storage facility at its Raglan mine in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, in Canada.
“The aim is to cut the use of expensive diesel at its fully diesel-powered operations, where energy accounts for up to 23% of operating costs,” Mining Weekly reported.
“The focus of the first phase is to test the three storage technologies in Arctic conditions, ahead of the roll-out of a larger wind farm at the mine site.”
By using renewable energy to run a mine, mining companies have finding viable options to own and control their own power supplies. In addition, excess power generated by solar and wind at mines can also be sold to utility companies helping to offset costs.
The abovementioned companies are just a few of the initiatives mining companies can utilize to implement alternative energy into their mining operations. Overall, it’s a win-win for the environment as well as the wallets of mining companies.
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.