-

Articles: Energize The "roaring" twenties: A decade of opportunity for the...
- Advertisment -

The “roaring” twenties: A decade of opportunity for the mining industry

by John Lewis, Managing Director, Aggreko Africa

- Advertisment -

This year opens a whole new decade: A decade which opens with the need to overcome a number of challenges. Digitalisation enables greater efficiency while the shift towards lower carbon power has the potential to significantly reduce operating costs. Mining has an absolutely integral role in future global development, the opportunities that come with this are boundless and should not be overlooked.

We all know the drill. Every year starts with experts from across the industry sharing their thoughts and predictions for the year ahead. 2020 has been no different and neither has the story with a consensus view that the volatility we’ve seen in recent years will continue into the new decade. With persistently low commodity prices, emerging technologies creating demand for different metals and minerals, and greater pressure for carbon reduction, miners have had to adapt quickly in response to the realities of this operating environment.

But perhaps it is time that we change how we interpret this outlook. While it is undeniable that we are entering the 2020s with the need to overcome a number of challenges, as an industry we should change the narrative and consider the opportunities that come with this change. Digitalisation enables greater efficiency while the shift towards lower carbon power has the potential to significantly reduce operating costs.

This is a time of significant transformation for the industry as the traditional operating model is turned on its head. But with mining having an absolutely integral role in future global development, the opportunities that come with this are boundless and should not be overlooked.

Responding to the demand for greener operations

The energy transition is impacting every sector in every market, from food manufacturing to utilities, from Australia to Africa, as decision makers explore ways to make their operations greener and more sustainable. With the mining industry estimated to account for 6,2% of the total global energy consumption, our industry in particular is under the spotlight to put in place measures to address our carbon footprint.

The reliability of renewable energy sources is a constant challenge for miners looking to integrate clean energy into operations. Unexpected disruption to power supply, even if only for a short period of time, can have significant cost implications for miners. A balance needs to be found where miners can integrate green energy without fears of intermittency.

Hybrid energy solutions, which provide combined solar and thermal power optimised with batteries, provide reliability of supply to ensure productivity is unaffected while supporting efforts to reduce overall carbon emissions. As well as minimising a miner’s carbon footprint, integrating renewables can have a positive impact on both efficiency and the balance sheet as the price of renewable energy and batteries continues to decline, For remote mines for example, hybrid power solutions can be up to 30 per cent cheaper than running thermal generators alone.

This is becoming reality for the Syama gold mining complex in southern Mali. Aggreko recently signed a contract with Resolute to support its ambitions to reduce carbon emissions and improve overall efficiency for the site. Once installed, Aggreko will operate and maintain a 40 MW thermal power plant and a 10 MW battery storage system, with a further 20 MW of solar power planned in 2023. The hybrid solution will reduce Syama’s power costs by an estimated 40%. Once all the renewable power sources are fully installed it will also reduce carbon emissions by approximately 20%.

And this isn’t just limited to the African market. Last year, Aggreko began the construction of one of the world’s largest renewable energy microgrids for Gold Fields’ Granny Smith gold mine in Western Australia. The 8 MW solar power generation system integrates 20 000 solar panels supported by a 2 MW /1 MWh battery. The microgrid is projected to reduce fuel consumption by between 10 and 13% – the equivalent of removing 2000 cars from the road – and produce about 18 GWh of clean energy per year.

Embracing innovation

Technology is driving greater efficiency for mining operations. One such example is the integration of remote monitoring which has the ability to foresee issues that could have a detrimental impact on production. At Aggreko, our team of expert engineers’ review data from more than 10 000 generators located across the world to track fuel levels, equipment running times, usage and power loads, maintenance plans and emergencies. This data gives us the ability to improve both fuel and equipment efficiency for our customers to ensure they have in place the energy solution which best suits their needs.

In Australia, for the Granny Smith mine, the solar, thermal and battery storage assets will be seamlessly integrated and managed by Aggreko’s control software platform. This system will ensure maintenance of full system availability and optimise the lifetime of existing thermal assets.

A more flexible approach for a rapidly changing operating environment

Advances in technology are also driving change for the mining industry in terms of the pool of metals and minerals that are considered to be a worthwhile investment. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is leading to an increase in the need for cobalt, lithium and nickel, which are important component parts of lithium-ion batteries.

That said, there’s an element of risk in being ahead of the curve and responding to the latest technologies as and when they emerge. There’s a chance that the components of technology shift in another direction or consumer preferences change, leaving miners with an expensive infrastructure in place for a seemingly worthless commodity. Renting equipment to support operations can reduce the exposure of miners to changing trends with no upfront costs and ability to respond more nimbly to the ebbs and flows of this rapidly changing market.

Persistent low commodity prices mean that miners are under more pressure to keep a careful eye on the balance sheet. But with the need to also meet carbon emissions targets, action still needs to happen. The integration of renewable energy into power solutions for mines can result in significant CAPEX investment.

Rental power provides mining companies with greater flexibility. A rental power model allows miners to respond to the challenge of decarbonisation keep energy costs competitive and only require an outlay of OPEX, rather than CAPEX. This means that miners have greater flexibility to respond to the rapidly evolving market whilst still delivering against their carbon emissions targets.

Mining in 2030

Exactly what the mining sector will look like in 2030 is still unknown. But what we can say with some certainty is that it will be markedly different from the one in which we operate today. Rather than view this transition with scepticism, as an industry we should embrace the opportunities that are a by-product this change. With the chance to reduce carbon emissions, improve margins and drive efficiency as a result, what’s not to like?

Send your comments to rogerl@nowmedia.co.za

 

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles

Remote FAT now online

Australian Switchgear Engineering firm NOJA Power has announced the commissioning of its innovative online remote Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) capability. Achieved through installation of...

Launching an interactive, virtual solar show

SolarEdge Technologies, a global leader in smart energy technology, announced today that it is planning an interactive, virtual solar show on the week of...

Local engineering group lends a hand

As COVID-19 continues to gain momentum as a global pandemic, and the need for protective gear for first-line responders increases, Netcare has asked for...

Complete range of electrical distribution equipment on offer

A complete range of products and systems for electrical distribution in industrial, residential and commercial buildings is available from ElectroMechanica (EM). EM supplies Hager’s...

Thermal sensors for elevated skin temperature screening

FLIR Systems announces the release of its FLIR A400/A700 thermal smart sensor and thermal image streaming fixed camera solutions. These highly configurable camera systems...

Innovative ways to save food retailers money right now

Information from Danfoss It is a challenging time to work on a supermarket’s technical team right now. Competitive pressure has brought an even greater need...

Touwsrivier solar project O&M contract awarded

The contract for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the Touwsrivier CPV solar project, in the Western Cape, has been awarded. Juwi Renewable Energies’ subsidiary,...

Excelling at technically demanding projects

Specialising in the heavy industrial and large commercial space, Jet Demolition prides itself on being able to undertake the more challenging demolition projects. It...

Electromagnetic flowmeters receive upgrade

Instrotech has announced that the Kobold magnetic inductive flowmeters MIM and MIS have been upgraded and further developed. Kobold’s MIM, for measuring and monitoring...

State of electric vehicle uptake in South Africa

by Hiten Parmar, uYilo eMobility Programme Air quality, manufacturing, imports, charging infrastructure and government policy are the main focal areas for electric vehicles in South...

From our readers: Eskom curtails demand from wind farms

RE: Eskom curtails power from wind farms due to low demand With Eskom still pumping pollutants into the air from their coal fired power stations,...

SAWEA responds to Eskom’s curtailment of power from wind farms

Despite government issuing an official notice on 25 March 2020, classifying electricity production, supply and maintenance as essential services, Eskom is proposing to curtail...

High-power multi-range programmable DC power supplies 

Comtest is pleased to announce B&K Precision’s new MR Series of 5 kW multi-ranging, single-output programmable DC power supplies, offering up to 1000 V...

Tanzanian company wins prestigious distribution rights

Hytec Services Africa, a member of the Bosch Rexroth South Africa Group of Companies, has awarded distribution rights in the United Republic of Tanzania...

Final wind turbine installed just ahead of lockdown

Perdekraal East Wind Farm announced the installation of its 48th wind turbine, two weeks ahead of schedule, on 24 March 2020. The final lifting...
- Advertisement -