MINING TAKES ON THE SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE
Mines impact the people and the environments in which they operate
Mines are not sustainable. By their very nature, they involve the extraction of finite resources from the earth. Yet no one denies the essential role that mining plays at the beginning of the supply chain for much of the world’s output. It’s no wonder, then, that mines are increasingly a focus of efforts by investors, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders with an interest in creating a more-sustainable, lower-carbon world.
The challenges and opportunities facing miners seeking to increase the sustainability of their activities while protecting their bottom lines are the subject of an undated report by global management consultancy Kearney.
Says Kearney, “Mining is at a critical juncture … We believe sustainability can be a catalyst to … changes [that address] all facets of the mining value chain, from input sourcing and development of local supply and renewable energy to delivering a sustainable product to the market.”
At the same time, Kearney recognizes that these changes will only be implemented in ways that are “fully integrated with running the (mining) business competitively.” The report continues, “Yesterday’s mining executives generally viewed operational efficiency and sustainability as separate beasts. The world has changed …Today’s executives understand that sustainability can improve operational efficiency and lead to both short- and long-term benefits.”
A lasting approach
Kearney describes a lasting approach to sustainability (the only kind that makes sense) as “one that focuses on social and environmental issues within six categories—water, land, air, socioeconomic, health and safety, and quality of life (see chart). A sustainable mine addresses these issues and makes positive contributions to the communities in which it operates. In economic terms, this means profits for the mine and its stakeholders and long-term economic benefits for the ‘ecosystem’ around it.”
The role of renewable energy
Naturally, economic, social, and environmental issues sometimes overlap. This is most evident in the case of renewable energy. With wind and solar power now cheaper per kW than fossil fuels, shifting to renewables reduces operational costs, while also improving efficiency of the mine through a more stable power supply and reducing carbon emissions.
In addition, says Kearney, “The real beauty of renewable energy solutions is that they also benefit the larger community … Solar power not only creates an environmentally friendly way to produce energy for the community and the remaining mining operations, but also leads to jobs in construction, maintenance, and energy. Furthermore, it provides a best-practice example for future land use.”
Read the entire Kearney report here.
WORLD’S LARGEST OFF-GRID SOLAR PLANT FOR MINING
Canadian miner B2Gold has announced the commissioning of the world’s largest off-grid solar plant for mining at its Fekola mine in southwest Mali, one of the world’s biggest gold mines.
According to Energy and Mines, the hybrid solar-battery installation, jointly implemented with Suntrace GmbH and BayWa r.e., includes a 30 MW solar PV plant, 15.4 MWh battery storage and a tailor-made control system.
During the daytime, the plant generates enough energy to allow for the shutdown of three out of the mine’s six heavy fuel oil (HFO) generators. To ensure reliable and continuous energy supply, the battery storage compensates for fluctuation in generation, allowing up to 75% of the mine’s electricity demand to be covered by renewable energy during daylight hours. The system is further claimed to save 13.1 million liters of HFO and cut CO2 emissions by 39,000 tonnes annually.
“Integrating such a large amount of solar into a small, isolated grid safely and reliably has been a major technical challenge and required the use of battery storage as well as a tailor-made control system,” said Thorsten Althaus, Project Manager at BayWa r.e. “It is extremely rewarding to see how well this solution performs in reality.”
Read more here.
WIND AND SOLAR MAPPING FOR MINES
In many regions of the world almost all mines are assessing renewables as a cost-effective power source for their operations. A recent Energy and Mines interview with Simon Rigling of resource measurement specialists Fulcrum3D shines light on how the potential for wind and solar to produce power at specific locations is evaluated.
Rigling says, “Similar to geological mapping of an orebody, wind and solar resources need to be mapped to ascertain their potential, quality and yield. Assessment data is used to establish generation potential, optimal generation mix (wind / solar / diesel / storage), optimal location and project financing.
In addition to solar, mines are also looking at wind as a viable renewable energy resource. “Wind and solar complement each other really well from an intermittency perspective,” says Rigling, “and both have a similar levelised cost of energy (LCOE) so the level of interest we are now seeing in wind from the mining sector makes a lot of sense.”
When evaluating their renewable energy resource potential, Rigling advises miners to start early. “Wind and solar resource assessment campaigns are generally conducted over a minimum 12-month period to cover seasonality,” he says.
Read the full interview here.