Mining News

Strange Bedfellows: Miners Taking to Renewable Energy

Posted by Alana Wilson on 2/25/2014 3:39:30 PM

by Kenneth P. Green

I have frequently argued against government driven “green energy transformations,” as being non-economic, non job-creating, and often, plagued by corruption. But in a fascinating article in Mining Journal, Ruth Green (no relation) discusses the increasing adoption of green power by the mining sector, particularly in Africa. Finding it difficult to access grid-power in more distant parts of sub-Saharan Africa, mining companies are finding it easier – and, apparently economical – to install renewable energy systems instead:

“A lot of mining companies still believe that they will be able to get grid power, but the reality is now starting to kick in," he added. "With renewable energy you don't have to wait to be connected to the grid, you can get energy on day one and there are zero variable costs. Miners are now starting to see the bigger picture and recognise this.”

Development director Keith Richardson added: “Centralised power is getting harder to get your hands on, so more companies are realising that that they need to rely on decentralised power.”

Cronimet has particular pedigree in this area of course, having developed 300MW of photovoltaic (PV) facilities across South Africa, Canada and Europe to date. Last year it built and now operates the world’s largest standalone solar PV-diesel hybrid power facility at the Thabazimbi chromium mine in South Africa's Limpopo Province. Armstrong and Richardson say the demand from mining companies for these types of facilities in sub-Saharan Africa is clearly on the rise.

Speed of installation is a factor, and the article suggests that power from a renewable facility can be brought on-line in as little as three months. Junior mining companies are leading the charge in adopting renewables.

There are several interesting angles to ponder when reading this article, chief among them the perverse dynamic in which an industry (mining) that is reviled by environmentalists is adopting renewable energy simply out of market considerations, undoubtedly greening their energy consumption while making it easier for them to operate off the grid, and in remote locations – all actions that environmental groups have been calling for. And as the mining companies are building this new renewable generation, they’re also running power to local communities that currently live in desperate energy poverty.

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