The importance of solar and wind energy in Mining
Facing volatile commodity prices and increasing operational costs, the mining sector has become a hotbed for renewable energy. In fact, the topic has been a driving force for some of the largest mining conferences in the past few years as companies look to find new ways of replacing the high costs of grid electricity with solar, wind and geothermal power.
The following companies prove that not only can it be done, but it can actually have better-than-expected results.
As South Africa’s third largest gold miner, Harmony Gold has been on the cusp of utilizing solar into its electricity mix. 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.
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According to Mining Global, Harmony Gold is also looking 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.”
Toronto-based IAMGOLD is one of the top companies utilizing alternative energy. The company recently finished the completion of its $12 million project in South America’s Suriname--a 5-megawatt solar farm for its open-pit Rosebel mine. The massive project aims to reduce energy costs but increase the energy supply to the mine.
“The Rosebel Solar Energy Project is an excellent investment by Rosebel that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide additional power generating capacity in Suriname, and once again demonstrate the importance of the Brokpondo area for the generation of power in Suriname,” said IAMGOLD’s Vice President Commercial, South America, Ronal Halas.
According to the company, energy represents about 20 percent to 25 percent of the company’s costs. In the next five years, IAMGOLD expects to generate 15 percent of its own electricity, which should greatly reduce costs.
As the world’s largest commodities trader, Glencore knows a thing or two about alternative energy.
According to Mining Global, Glencore recently installed a 3MW wind turbine and energy storage facility at its Raglan mine in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, in Canada. The company’s 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.
“The aim is to cut the use of expensive diesel at its fully diesel-powered operations, where energy accounts for up to 23 percent of operating costs.”
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.