Sustainable Mining Relies Upon Steady Electricity

In Dust Control, Energy, Mine & Quarry by Jim Silva

Keeping a mine operating continually requires uninterrupted access to a reliable source of electricity — and efficient dust control solutions.

To powering heating and ventilation systems and keep the lights on hundreds of feet below the surface, mines require a large and dependable source of electricity. Ensuring access to that source, however, can be especially tricky. Nonetheless, mine operators are constantly finding innovative and reliable ways to keep a steady supply of electricity flowing at sites around the world.

Powering Up

In an interview with Mining Weekly, Matthew Fredericks — a top executive for Aggreko, a power generation company that provides reliable energy to mines around the world — emphasizes the importance of preparing for emergency power loss, which he describes as “an expensive risk that can easily be avoided through adequate contingency planning and pre-empting any potential disruptions.”

In areas where grid infrastructure is limited, mine operators look to companies like Aggreko to establish independent power plants and modular infrastructure to ensure operations run without interruption. “Establishing a sustainable and off-grid power source is a vital component of the commissioning process and a worthy investment to ensure that the energy strategy meets the mine’s needs throughout its life cycle,” Fredericks says.

Alternatively, mine operators can establish and draw on power sources fueled by mine byproducts. For example, in 2014, Aggreko partnered with Sibanye Gold to build a 2MW gas-fired power plant, which relies on previously flared gas to generate electricity. “We developed an innovative, environment-friendly alternative source of electricity using the site’s natural resources,” Fredericks explains. “Sibanye had been flaring excess gas, which is common practice at many sites across Africa, and recognized the need to find a more sustainable, efficient and safer alternative to eliminate the excess gas.”

Renewable Potential

Following the model employed at the Sibanye plant, mine companies around the world are beginning to shift towards renewable power resources to offset some of their energy dependency. In addition to obvious cost-cutting benefits, mine that rely on renewable energy sources can ensure the security of their energy supply and sell off excess energy to utility companies.

As AltEnergyMag reports, South African mines have seen huge success in offsetting their energy needs with solar power. For example, the German mining company CRONIMET became the first to connect solar power to their Thaba chromium mine in the Limpopo Province, aiming to supplement Thaba’s diesel-based power system with solar energy. Since the project’s implementation in 2012, the company has cut its diesel bill by over half a million dollars. Meanwhile, Vale, the world’s third largest mine by market value, has formed a joint venture with Pacific Hydro to establish two wind farms in northeast Brazil. The company is aiming to combine hydro, wind, and biomass energy to diversify its energy mix, reduce emissions, and cut costs.

While providing steady electricity to mines is no small feat, the most persistent challenge facing mine operators is controlling fugitive dust on-site. Dust particulate from mined minerals can escape during the transportation, extraction, and storage process, posing a potential threat to workers and the environment. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc.’s dust control solutions minimize this risk, allowing mine operators to continue their essential work while remaining environmentally compliant. Ensuring that mining operations continue, fully powered and dust-free, is Midwest’s promise.

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.