Mining majors pledge to electrify industry with renewables, batteries, EVs

Goldwind turbine blade arrives at Gold Fields’ Angew mine

The CEOs of five major mining companies have pledged to shift their operations to renewable energy, and to help accelerate the broader decarbonisation of the industry, as part of an unprecedented collective agreement.

South32, OZ Minerals, IGO, Gold Fields Australia and Barminco last week co-signed a statement of intent committing to the electrification of their mine sites, paving the way for the phase-out of costly and heavy-polluting diesel generation.

The pledge was made in conjunction with the establishment of the Electric Mine Consortium, founded by a group of 14 companies in response to climate change and in a bid to harness the economic and social benefits of clean energy, large-scale storage and battery electric vehicles.

The establishment of the Australian consortium was led by State of Play, a global platform founded in 2012 to support mining industry discussion of innovation, performance and strategies for competitive advantage.

As One Step Off The Grid has reported, the use of renewable energy resources to power remote mine sites in Australia is rapidly becoming key to the economics of new projects, quite apart from ticking increasingly non-negotiable environmental, social, and governance boxes.

OZ Minerals illustrated this in August of 2019 when it chose wind, solar and battery storage – over gas – to power its proposed $1 billion nickel mine in outback Australia.

Before OZ Minerals, however, and since, many, many more have done the same. A notable recent example includes the Gruyere gold mine in Western Australia, whose joint owners Gold Fields and Gold Road Resources are fitting with a 13MW solar farm and a 4.4MW/4.4MWh battery energy storage system.

OZ Minerals CEO Andrew Cole, who articulated his own company’s 2019 renewable energy decision neatly at a half-year result presentation in May of 2020, said last week that the shift to low-carbon generation sources was about more than economics.

“We have a strategic aspiration to emit zero scope 1 emissions and systemically reduce scope 2 and 3 emissions across our value chain,” he said in a statement announcing the launch of the Consortium.

“We are committed to investigating various technologies and strategies, such as the electrification of mining equipment, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at our assets.”

On the economic side of the equation, however, the establishment of the Electric Mine Consortium is expected to help drive down costs of switching to technologies like solar, wind and battery storage to power mines, through the sharing of experience, expertise and solutions.

“Our data shows renewables, all electric systems and batteries will help fuel the change towards a healthier, economically viable future of mining, but uncertainty remains when it comes to which area to invest in first, and how,” said State of Play co-founder, Graeme Stanway.

“Here in Australia, we have an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in our most remote operations.

“Local mine sites have the opportunity to install solar, wind and battery energy storage systems to power their operations at a much cheaper cost than many global players.”

On that front, the Consortium is supported by a key group of suppliers, including global equipment leaders Epiroc and Sandvik, software giant Dassault, Western Australia utility Horizon Power, engineers Hahn Electrical, renewables outfit Energy Vault, and 3ME Technologies.

“Solving complex challenges, innovating, and achieving sustainable value creation will require us to harness the best minds from both inside and outside the mining industry to help us connect dots in new and exciting ways” added OZ Minerals’ Cole.

The founding consortium companies are: 3ME Technologies, Barminco, Dassault, Epiroc, Energy Vault, Gold Fields, Hahn Electrical, Horizon Energy, IGO, OZ Minerals, Safescape, Sandvik, South32 and State of Play.

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