A high-grade lithium mine south of Port Hedland in Western Australia’s Pilbara region is looking to slash its diesel fuel consumption by millions of litres a year with the installation of a solar power plant and, in future, battery storage.
ASX-listed pure-play lithium miner Pilbara Minerals last month inked a 15-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Energy Group subsidiary Contract Power Australia to build, operate and maintain a 6MW solar plant at its 100% owned Pilgangoora Project.
While Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, says she is struggling to make solar and battery storage work against the cost of diesel, others are having no such problems.
Pilbara and Contract Power said in a statement that the design of the solar array would allow for the addition of more solar in the future, as well as for the potential inclusion of battery storage at Pilgangoora.
The Pilgangoora ore body is one of the largest hard rock lithium deposits in the world and is considered strategically important within the global lithium supply chain, as it ramps up to meet booming demand for batteries for electric vehicles and stationary energy storage.
Pilbara Minerals’ operation at Pilgangoora consists of two processing plants: the Pilgan Plant, to the north, which produces a spodumene concentrate and a tantalite concentrate, and the Ngungaju Plant, to the south, which produces a spodumene concentrate.
The two processing plants give Pilbara Minerals speed to market by enabling it to rapidly increase production to satisfy rising lithium market demand and flexibility by being able to blend products to meet customer needs.
Of course this all requires energy, and in line with the company’s 2020 pledge to deliver net zero emissions (Scope 1 and 2) in the decade commencing 2040, relying on diesel or other fossil fuel powered plants to provide this into the future is not a sustainable option.
“The installation of the first phase of the solar farm is just one part of the initial rationalisation of power assets at Pilgangoora, as we further integrate the Ngungaju Operation,” the company statement said.
“A local power network will be created to join the Ngungaju and Pilgan Plants, and the Carlindi camp facilities thereby creating further efficiencies.
“Pilbara Minerals’ longer-term objectives include integration with other northern Pilbara power and/or gas and renewables sources with a view to creating further efficiency gains on the path to net zero carbon.”
For Pacific Energy, which in 2018 installed the first baseload power station at Pilgangoora for Pilbara Minerals, more and more of the resources jobs being fielded by its subsidiaries Contract Power and Hybrid Systems Australia call for a mix of renewables and battery storage.
In WA’s Goldfields-Esperance region, Hybrid Systems is owner-operater of a solar and battery storage system it was contracted to build for an open-cut kaolin clay mine and geological waste repository, which manages to power the facility with renewables only during daylight hours.