As the world looks for ways to embrace renewable energy and reduce the carbon footprint of its economic activity, a close relationship is forming between mining and wind farming.
As the world looks for ways to embrace renewable energy and reduce the carbon footprint of our economic activity, a close relationship is forming between mining and wind farming.
Most recently, here in Australia, five giant wind turbines have been installed at the Agnew gold project, about 1000 km north-east of Perth. They stand alongside a solar farm and a storage battery and they’re the first wind turbines to be installed at any mining project in Australia.
Stuart Mathews, Executive Vice President of Gold Fields, which owns the Agnew project, told the ABC the move to renewable energy made good economic sense for the business and it had been “seamless”.
“It’s been great,” he said. “In optimal conditions we’ve been as high as 80 or 90 per cent (of renewables in the energy use mix), when the wind is right and the solar is just right.”
Mining companies shifting to renewables
The ABC reports that plenty of resources companies, including Rio Tinto, Woodside, BHP and Fortescue Metals, are switching to low-emission alternatives—providing leadership in this area even as Australia’s Federal Government resists introducing or championing such a shift.
Some mining companies have long embraced wind power. At its Diavik diamond mine, near the Arctic circle in Canada, Rio Tinto has been harnessing wind power since 2012—offsetting millions of litres of diesel use and thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Also in Canada, Glencore’s Raglan mine has been harvesting wind on an industrial scale. It uses a flywheel to store energy created by a spinning wheel, which manages dips and drops in power.
Closed mines becoming wind farms
In particular, closed mines are proving ideal locations for wind farms. German miner Mitteldeutsche Braunkohlengesellschaft is planning to build a 275 hectare wind farm on the inner dump of its now closed open-cast mine site near Leipzig. It’s building 17 wind turbines of 6MW in size.
Former mines are particularly suitable for wind farms as they provide the large, open sites necessary.
Renewable power makes economic sense for miners
Back at Gold Fields, Mathews told the ABC he believed the use of renewable power sources was commercially sensible, and the reasons he gave suggest many Australian miners could soon be following suit.
Remote operations that are unconnected to electricity grids have to be self-sufficient in their power generation. Diesel and gas are expensive and becoming more so. Switching to renewables reduces those costs and breaks the link to volatile energy prices for diesel and gas, saving money and making it easier to budget for energy costs.
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