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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 ...

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|Aug 31|magazine7 min read

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.