A Renewable-Powered Mine and Township in Australia
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) last year announced funding for a ground-breaking two-phase project in far north Queensland that will supply renewable energy to Weipa’s bauxite mine, township and port.
ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said the collaborative $23.4 million project was a first for Australia and a first for ARENA, and would demonstrate the potential for renewable energy to provide reliable and competitively priced power to remote mining operations.
“ARENA is providing $3.5 million towards the first stage of this solar photovoltaics (PV) project, which will provide 1.7MW off-grid power to the mine, town and port facilities under a 15 year power purchase agreement with Rio Tinto Alcan,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“First Solar and Ingenero will deliver ground-mounted thin-film PV to the site; a total of 18,000 solar PV panels will be installed during this first phase, contributing up to 20% of daytime demand and offsetting the mining operation’s reliance on diesel fuels.
“This is the first time a mining company has adopted renewable energy for its Australian operations and is the first project to be funded through the Industry arm of ARENA’s Regional Australia’s Renewables Program.”
Mr Frischknecht said ARENA had committed up to $7.8 million for a second phase of the Weipa project, contingent on the success of the initial phase in 2014.
“Due for completion in 2017, the second phase is intended to deliver an additional 5MW PV system; it will include a significant storage component and be capable of meeting up to 100% of daytime power demand at Weipa at certain times,” Mr Frischknecht said.
Frischknecht said off-grid communities and businesses have had little choice but to rely on diesel generators that are expensive to run and subject to volatile fuel prices.
“Transporting fuel long distances for generators is dangerous and subject to variable weather conditions – it is a costly, unpredictable arrangement that doesn’t make good economic sense,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“ARENA has made it a priority to work with major mining companies to find solutions and overcome roadblocks associated with integrating renewable energy into off-grid locations.
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.