Tag Archives: renewables

Aggreko urges miners to embrace renewable power generation now

With decarbonisation at the forefront of miners’ agendas, one of the world’s leading provider of mobile and modular power solutions, Aggreko, has released its top tips to help miners decarbonise now and into the future.

Aggreko’s Global Head of Mining, Rod Saffy, said while miners were embracing the global energy transition, some were unsure where to begin.

“For some miners it’s about knowing where to start and they may be weighing up the cost, risk and threat of new technology in the future,” he said.

“Fortunately, technology isn’t in the same place as it was five years ago or even two years ago. Some of the renewable power technologies available today, combined with thermal generation in a hybrid solution, offer the same – if not better – levels of reliability and competitiveness than traditional thermal technology.”

Saffy said power generation companies were taking significant steps to support miners on their respective paths to net-zero emissions.

“Increasingly, power companies are offering renewables such as solar and wind energy to off-grid mines, and we often integrate those with battery storage solutions and thermal microgrids,” he said.

“If you consider a hybrid power solution – where you switch in renewables to your power mix alongside fossil fuels – your operation will be more flexible and can scale up and down as needed.

“Our approach means miners can also partner with us, long term, without being tied down to one fuel type for their power source, and new technology is introduced as it becomes viable.

“Integrating renewables in this manner will result in greater cost savings and efficiencies for your project.”

One solar and thermal hybrid solution Aggreko delivered for a remote gold mine in Africa resulted in more than 12% savings in fuel (about 10,000 litres a day) and the contract offered meant the miner did not have to come up with capital to invest in the solar plant.

Another example Aggreko is working on, Saffy said, is a 25.9 MW hybrid solar and thermal power solution for the Salares Norte open-pit mine in Chile.

“It is a ground-breaking solution designed to provide power for the entire mine, which sits at an altitude of 4,500 m in the Andes mountain range and is 190 km from the nearest town,” he explained.

“Once complete, the hybrid power plant is expected to achieve $7.4 million in cost of energy savings over the next decade, a further $1.1 million in carbon tax offset over the life of the mine, in addition to 104,000 t of carbon emissions savings.

“The system will surpass the Chilean government’s environmental standards as well as Gold Fields’ requirement for a minimum of 20% renewable power generation for mining operations.”

Saffy said the pathways to decarbonisation that held the most appeal for miners currently included:

  • Hybrid power plants (as mentioned): These combine renewables (eg solar, wind) with thermal generation and battery storage, benefitting areas with limited or no access to permanent power. These are generally cost-competitive. Once solar or wind plants are installed, their generation running costs are relatively low and at zero emissions;
  • Virtual gas pipelines: Gas power generation can offer a greener and more cost-effective alternative to diesel and heavy fuel oil. A virtual pipeline is a substitute – and an alternative – for a physical pipeline. Gas is instead transported as LNG or CNG to the point of use by sea, road, or rail. For mines not connected to a physical pipeline and looking to switch to gas from diesel, a virtual pipeline model simply imitates their current supply solution. For users who are connected to a gas pipeline but are looking to supplement insufficient or unreliable pipeline capacity, the virtual power plant solution has several advantages over diesel; and
  • Renewable energy: Renewable energy power systems are an effective way of tapping into natural resources to provide power, such as wind farms, hydro power and solar. The challenge is their reliability related to weather, hence why, if power is interrupted for any reason, it is important to ensure they’re backed by with batteries or a temporary thermal power solution.

A significant future fuel in this space will be hydrogen. Investment in hydrogen is on the rise because of the role it can play in supporting a global transition to net-zero. Its versatility and compatibility with existing furnaces, engines and generators make it particularly appealing for the mining industry, according to Aggreko.

Saffy said energy sources likely to become more prevalent in mining during the next 10 years included biofuels (would become less expensive), hydropower, energy storage (such as pumped, mechanical flywheel), and gas generation which runs with a hybrid renewable system. While it is increasingly used now as power source, wind and solar power are also expected to gain more momentum.

Aggreko is also experimenting with mobile wind solutions, re-deployable solar panels and tidal wave power (though tidal wave power might not be for the mining industry yet). The company is also accelerating its investments in hydrogen technology, with trials underway in Europe on two different technologies, where Aggreko is collaborating with lead customers and partners trialling hydrogen generators and fuel cell battery hybrids.

“It’s a very exciting time in the mining sector, and it will be amazing to see the innovations presented during the next few years as miners and energy companies collaborate and come up with new ideas for a greener future,” Saffy said.

“The key though is to start now – you can embrace renewables now into your energy mix because, done correctly, cost and emission savings can be greatly reduced without compromising reliability.”

Aggreko has its own net-zero goals by 2050 and has a 2030 target to reduce diesel use in its customer solutions by 50%.

Hindustan Zinc accelerates growth plans as it partners with industry leaders

Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), a Vedanta Group Company and the world’s second largest integrated producer of zinc and lead, is in acceleration mode, embarking on aggressive expansion and collaboration plans with technology and innovation partners from across the globe.

One of the first mining companies to commit to going “Net Zero” by 2050, it has a strong focus on ESG reinforced by plans to deploy battery-electric vehicles, tap into more solar and wind power potential and recycle waste heat from its captive power plants. Such ambitions are being delivered with up to $1 billion of finance in the next five years to “go green” and, by 2025, achieve focused sustainability goals.

At the same time as it is looking to become an ESG leader, it is boosting its mine and metal production by leveraging “smart mining” and an extensive resource and reserve base.

IM put some questions to Arun Misra, Hindustan Zinc CEO, to find out how the company intends to deliver on its lofty ambitions.

IM: HZL’s 2021 financial year to March 31, 2021, was characterised by record production volumes and profitability; how were you able to achieve such results given the COVID-19-affected constraints on your operations?

AM: The uncertainty has evolved continuously. If I give you an example, we started the year with the uncertainty of COVID only; that is people getting infected leading to absenteeism. It was so contagious, it spread so fast, half of our workforce were down. So, that struck us heavily, but, nevertheless, because we had experience of last year, and this time there was no lockdown of industry, we were able to figure out how to manage and we did manage well, compared to last year’s same quarter, which was also COVID-affected. We had introduced various measures to change the way of working to ensure a safer working environment for the employees. We also got our workforce vaccinated along with their families to further minimise the risks associated with the pandemic.

Hindustan Zinc CEO, Arun Misra, says Hindustan Zinc has been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of its employees or local communities

Furthermore, the automation and digitalisation efforts at Hindustan Zinc are equipped to better withstand these testing times while ensuring quick revival to a normal level of operations.

IM: During the height of the pandemic, HZL – like other socially responsible mining companies – supported communities within or close by to its operations. Can you highlight some of the actions you took over this period and what impact they had?

AM: We at Hindustan Zinc have been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of our employees or local communities. We have gone beyond and extended our support to the state of Rajasthan and the nation at large by contributing significantly to the PM Cares Fund and Rajasthan Chief Minister Relief Fund.

To meet the requirement of oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic, we had set up an oxygen bottling plant at our Dariba unit (Rajsamand district) in a record time of five days and had supplied over 14,000 cylinders of medical oxygen. We even arranged 500 oxygen concentrators to be imported and distributed for use across the state.

We had provided an insulated vaccine van to the Udaipur district medical health office to support a smooth vaccination drive and extended support to the local health administrations, by disinfecting villages by spraying and fumigating with sodium hypochlorite solution and providing medical gear like masks, sanitisers and PPE to local communities.

We even constructed an 8,000 sq.m air-conditioning dome hospital, based on German technology, which has a capacity of 100 beds – including 20 ICU beds – to accommodate patients and provide them with essential COVID treatment and medical facilities.

IM: ESG is obviously a major focus area for HZL, as these examples illustrate. Where specifically are you investing in your mining, power and smelting operations to make them more environmentally friendly?

AM: As a COP26 business leader, we have always been active in tackling the repercussions of climate change and have a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions. We are pioneers in India, declaring our ambition to convert all our mining equipment to battery-operated electric vehicles and will invest $1 billion over the next five years to make our mining operations environmentally friendly.

We are continuously expanding our renewable power of 274 MW of wind and 40 MW of solar under our greenhouse gas reduction goals by converting 50% of our total power to renewable forms in the next five years. We are among the only two metal and mining companies globally – and among four Indian companies – to be part of the coveted CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) ‘A List’ 2020.

Furthermore, we have even published our first Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) Report this year and have also joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) forum to understand nature-related risks and opportunities and accelerate the transition towards a nature-positive and carbon-neutral future.

We have set Sustainability Development Goals to 2025 for ourselves where we are aiming towards sustainable operations for a greener tomorrow.

Hindustan Zinc has embarked on a major growth push at its mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access

IM: At the same time as this, HZL has embarked on a major growth push at your mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access. How are you able to balance your sustainable expansion plans with pledges to reduce your overall footprint?

AM: We strive for operational excellence and cost efficiencies and continue to stay on the growth track while being equally cognisant of our environmental, social and governance commitments, as well as our sustainability goals. We are leveraging more digitalisation and automation than we ever have, as well as engaging with technology leaders to do ‘more with less’.

The SmartDrive equipment we plan to use enables higher productivity, lower operating costs and, most importantly, zero local emissions, featuring in-built energy recuperation technology to make the most of regenerative braking energy during downhill driving and deceleration.

Being a power-intensive business, our key focus is always on reducing dependence on non-renewable sources of energy and enhancing our renewable power base.

IM: How important has it been to partner with like-minded technology and solution providers to ensure you meet these ambitious goals? Can you provide some examples here?

AM: We always look for partners who align with our philosophy of running sustainable operations to achieve company goals. We don’t need one-off solutions from companies to meet our targets; we need companies that will engage throughout our medium- and long-term projects and provide an element of customisation that factors in the realities of operating in our underground mines. We look for global partners to work with us where we exchange ideas, insights and knowledge with them in our growth journey.

We believe in providing opportunities to our business partners to leverage collaboration on technology, innovation and digitalisation, for long-term value creation and mutual growth.

To support our expansion plan, it is crucial for Hindustan Zinc to collaborate with mine development and operation partners who share a similar vision to ours, which is to leverage cutting-edge technology to create a positive impact on the entire mining fraternity. We are currently working with companies like Sandvik, Epiroc, Normet, Barminco, RCT, Siemens, etc as our global partners. We have engaged with them to provide end-to-end solutions rather than sourcing a specific supply or service.

Hindustan Zinc has given an equal platform for women engineers in its mining operations, appointing India’s first female underground mine manager in 2021

IM: You have already stated a goal of 1.5 Mt/y of zinc production in the upcoming years and extending your lead as India’s largest integrated zinc-lead producer; what is your vision for the company to 2030 and beyond?

AM: We are excited about our next phase of expansion to take mining capacity from 1.2 Mt per annum to 1.35 Mt/a. We will surely cross 1 Mt and we should be above our guidance if we achieve the desired run rates in our third and fourth quarters.

While our growth plans are a key part of the company’s future, we are also focused on becoming the leading zinc-lead-silver producer from an environmental, social and governance point of view. Our DJSI Ranking of being among the Top 5 companies in the metal and mining sector is testament to this. We are already winning significant awards for our ESG and CSR efforts, and expect this recognition to continue and grow as we head towards mapping out our 2025 sustainability goals.

Also, the mining value chain is changing across the globe and more consumers are becoming aware of the origins of the products they buy and the emissions that come with their production.

To collaborate with Hindustan Zinc on its green growth mission, email [email protected]

IMARC ready to explore the race to decarbonise the energy sector

The global effort to decarbonise the energy sector is underway, and the race to net zero is shaping up to be an investment opportunity to define the decades to come, the organisers of the IMARC conference report.

Research suggests that as the price of adopting green energy continues to fall, so will the global demand for fossil-fuelled energy sources. Eventually a tipping point will be reached, and fossil fuel dependent energy companies’ assets will become ‘stranded’ unless they can adapt or pivot toward new sustainable energy practices.

As nations in the first world expand and those from the second and third world modernise, their energy needs will do the same, meaning more electricity, more hydrogen, more nuclear and more yet-to-be-discovered energy sources will be needed than ever before.

For the companies participating in Australia’s biggest mining conference, the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in 2022, staying in the race to decarbonise is essential.

Tipping point

Research suggests the tipping point for fossil-fuelled energy providers will come when costs for renewables reach parity with the lowest-cost traditional fossil alternatives, and this could be much sooner than 2050.

For such companies, demonstrating the long-term value to investors in a soon-to-be stranded asset class is becoming an increasingly hard sell. But it does not have to be. By pivoting toward renewable energy and investing in a low-carbon future, companies can ensure their survival after net zero.

EDL CEO, James Harman, said the industry was making the slow but sure transition to decarbonisation.

“The world has long relied on cheap, plentiful fossil fuels to power economies,” Harman said.

“In the early 2010s, EDL started looking to solar and wind generation as alternatives to fossil fuels across our portfolio, particularly for off-grid customers in remote Australia who were largely dependent on diesel- or gas-fuelled generation.

“In recent years, we have enjoyed great success with our hybrid energy solutions, helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint, but importantly maintaining and improving reliability whilst holding or reducing price. For example, our Agnew Hybrid Renewable Microgrid at Gold Fields’ Agnew Gold Mine provides the mine with energy that is an average of 50-60% from renewable sources, with 99.99% reliability.”

“EDL was one of the pioneers in the Australian landfill gas sector in the 1990s and, today, we are leading the way in high renewable energy fraction islanded microgrids. We are also exploring the introduction of landfill gas to renewable natural gas/biomethane technology to the Australian market, and the economic production of green hydrogen.”

ESG reinvigorating investment

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks are, at their core, risk assessment tools that consider the effect climate change will have on investors’ value creation opportunities. In June 2021, research and advisory experts, Gartner, released some jaw-dropping facts about the growing importance of ESG credentials.

According to Gartner, more than 90% of banks monitor ESG, along with 24 global credit ratings agencies, 71% of fixed income investors and more than 90% of insurers. Media mentions of ESG data, ratings or scores grew by 30% year-over-year in 2020, and 67% of banks screen their loan portfolios for ESG risks.

Harman acknowledged that it was important for attitudes and practices across the energy sector to change.

“Given that electricity generators are some of Australia’s biggest carbon emitters and most of the product generated is carbon intensive and derived from fossil fuels – the most important ESG themes for energy companies are climate change action and environmental stewardship,” he said.

“This includes investment in research and development into zero emissions technologies such as distributed energy solutions, energy storage and alternative renewable fuels as well as carbon capture & storage.”

ABB Australia Head of Mining, Nik Gresshoff, is encouraged by the innovation and progress he’s seeing in electrification and hydrogen technologies. ABB Australia is a Gold Sponsor of IMARC in 2022.

“The challenge for mining companies now is to map out their own journey, and to weigh up the gains that can be achieved now through automation, along with the investment required to get to net zero,” Gresshoff said.

Gresshoff recommends companies first define what their carbon footprint is, and what falls within their scope for decarbonisation, before beginning a net-zero journey. “Are they focusing on direct and indirect emissions initially or including the whole supply chain from the outset?” he asked.

“The next step is to examine the technology and what is currently possible to decarbonise. Having a clear understanding of where the company assets are in their lifecycle is critical, as well as an understanding of what technology is available and what technology could fit with the current operation.”

Can dinosaurs survive the Ice Age?

Fossil fuels may be going the way of the dinosaurs that created them, but economies of the future will still require the massive infrastructure frameworks and operational capacities to meet current and future energy needs.

In fact, economists have suggested an overnight collapse of the energy giants could result in massive job cuts and instability leading to a global economic recession.

As was made clear at the Glasgow COP 26 Summit, there is a ‘wall of money’ that will be available for the energy companies of the future – whether that is retrofitting existing gas pipelines for transport of liquid hydrogen or utilising closed coal mine sites for new nuclear power sites, or any number of ways that energy companies can and are pivoting.
EDL believes there is an opportunity for many technologies to play their part.

“There won’t be a one-size-fits-all energy solution that achieves affordability, reliability and sustainability for our diverse country,” Harman said.

“Large conventional power stations are and will continue to be replaced with lower emissions plant with support to make them more dispatchable, allowing cheaper renewable energy to be scheduled when available.

“For shorter-term storage, batteries are feasible but longer-term storage is currently uneconomic. There are a few potential options to resolve this including pumped hydro, new kinds of batteries and hydrogen.

“Based on our experience in the USA, we also see the potential for renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, to play a significant part in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in the industrial, heating, power and transport industries. RNG production is a technologically mature, ready-to-scale product that is deployable now.”

EDL’s James Harman will be sharing further insights on net zero at the upcoming IMARC in Melbourne, Australia, taking place on January 31-February 2, 2022.

IM is a media sponsor of IMARC

247Solar’s HeatStorE to help miners integrate more renewables into the power mix

A new thermal battery from 247Solar Inc, a business with origins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is set to help miners incorporate more renewable energy sources into the power mix at their remote operations.

The HeatStorE™ long duration thermal battery operates almost like an electrochemical battery but has significant advantages at longer durations, according to 247Solar.

“The basic principle of the thermal battery is rather simple,” the company explained. “Electric resistance coils heat an inexpensive thermal storage medium (silica sand) using low-cost excess electricity, eg from intermittent solar and wind power sources. Energy is stored as ultra-high temperature heat (up to 1,000°C) – at a fraction of the cost of batteries.”

Whenever needed, a specialised turbine reconverts the heat to electricity in this process, according to 247Solar. This turbine can generate electricity without combustion, as atmospheric-pressure air is passed through the ‘thermal storage’ and drives the ‘turbine’ to generate it.

By adding a combustor, the battery can also produce even more dispatchable back-up power, ideally using an emission-free fuel such as green hydrogen in the combustion process, 247Solar says.

“This is also how the battery can provide spinning reserves,” it said. “The innovative approach is designed to replace traditional diesel gensets at remote mines, as it provides 24/7 highly reliable operation with higher renewables penetration, significant fuel savings, and dramatically lower lifetime operating costs.”

Bruce Anderson, 247Solar’s CEO, said: “HeatStorE combines two inventions that are part of 247Solar’s Ultra-High Temperature Technology Platform, the 247Solar Heat2Power™ Turbine and the 247Solar Thermal Storage System. Combining these two proven technologies ensures that HeatStorE is also extremely reliable.

“We expect more than 20-year operations with little or no performance degradation.”

This new approach consists of a factory-made, shipping-size container filled with sand that is heated by resistance coils. It also comes with low operating and maintenance costs, according to the company.

“The combination of robustness and life-cycle cost advantages will enable mining companies to implement new power plant concepts with fewer diesel engines – ultimately without any at all,” 247Solar said.

The typical storage duration of HeatStorE is in the range of 4-20 hours, which also allows for substantial grid-support and load shifting. The cost per kWh drops rapidly with duration, it claims. Behind the meter in industrial applications, the battery can also convert otherwise-wasted hot process exhaust to electricity.

Gold Fields wins NERSA approval for South Deep solar power plant

Gold Fields says it has received the electricity generation licence approval from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for the construction of a 40 MW solar power plant at its South Deep gold mine in the country.

The acting CEO of NERSA now has to authorise the licence, a decision that should be forthcoming over the next two weeks, the miner said. All the regulatory approvals to proceed with the project will then be in place.

Gold Fields will update its definitive costings and finalise all the required internal processes to commence the project as soon as possible. The company has stated previously that the solar plant has the potential to provide around 20% of South Deep’s average electricity consumption.

Nick Holland, Gold Fields CEO, said: “The solar power plant will increase the reliability and affordability of power supply to South Deep, ultimately enhancing the long-term sustainability of the mine.

“The approval of this licence sends a strong, positive message to mining companies and their investors, potentially leading to decisions being taken to sustain and grow mining operations in the country, especially in deep-level, underground, marginal mines. Enabling companies to generate their own power also gives Eskom room to address operational issues at its power plants.”

Gold Fields says its energy objectives are based on four pillars – energy must be reliable, available, cost-effective and clean – which promote a shift to self-generation using renewable energy sources. “We are fully committed to making our contribution towards net-zero emissions,” Holland says.

During 2020, Gold Fields successfully implemented solar and wind power plants, backed by battery storage, at two of its Australian mines, Agnew and Granny Smith, and committed to renewables at its other Australian mines, Gruyere and St Ives, as well as the Salares Norte project in Chile when it starts operations in 2023. All its other mines are also reviewing renewable energy options.

Since full commissioning of the Agnew microgrid, renewable electricity averages over 55% of total supply at the mine.

During 2020, renewable electricity averaged 8% for the Australia region and 3% of total group electricity, Gold Fields said. Once the South Deep project is commissioned, renewable’s contribution to the group total will rise to around 11%.

Holland concluded: “We expect our investment in renewable and low-carbon energy sources to contribute significantly to our carbon emission reductions over the next few years. Power from the South Deep solar plant will partially replace coal-fired electricity from Eskom, enabling us to significantly reduce our Scope 2 carbon emissions.”

juwi South Africa to build solar PV plant at Pan African’s Evander Mines

Pan African says it has entered into an engineering, procurement and construction (EPCM) agreement with juwi South Africa to construct its 9.975 MW solar photovoltaic plant at Evander Mines in the country.

Construction will commence in the March quarter of 2021, with first power expected in the September quarter of 2021, it said.

Part of the international juwi Group, juwi South Africa is one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies. To date, juwi South Africa has built six utility scale solar plants totalling 207 MW under the South African Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme, Pan African said.

The Evander Mines solar photovoltaic plant will utilise bi-facial module technology to maximise its yield and it will be constructed on previously disturbed land owned by Evander Mines, Pan African said. The plant will provide an estimated 30% of Elikhulu’s power requirement during daylight hours and is expected to materially reduce electricity costs at this operation. Furthermore, the Evander solar photovoltaic plant is expected to enhance the reliability of the power supply during daylight hours and result in an expected CO2 saving of more than 26,000 tonnes in its first year of its operation.

Elikhulu has capacity to process an estimated 1 Mt/mth of tailings with a projected output of approximately 55,000 oz/mth of gold.

The total cost of the Evander solar photovoltaic plant is ZAR140 million ($9.4 million), with a calculated payback on this investment of less than five years, Pan African said.

“This solar photovoltaic plant further reduces Elikhulu’s environmental impact and is just one of a number of initiatives in the group’s commitment to producing high-margin ounces in a safe and efficient manner, while investing in local communities and minimising the environmental impact of operations,” it added.

Pan African is also assessing the merits of expanding the Evander Mines solar photovoltaic plant in due course to provide for a clean energy feed to its Egoli project, and of a similar solar photovoltaic plant at the group’s Barberton Mines operations.

Pan African CEO, Cobus Loots, said: “The Evander Mines solar photovoltaic plant is integral to the group’s purpose of ‘Mining for a Future’ and pursuing ESG initiatives that go beyond compliance. This plant will be one of the first of its kind in the South African mining space. We look forward to commissioning the operation during 2021, on budget and on schedule.”

Aggreko to help power up Colluli potash project

Aggreko has been appointed as the preferred power supply contractor for the 12 MW heavy fuel oil (HFO) power plant at the Colluli potash project in Eritrea, Danakali has reported.

The power company will provide a full scope of support services for the supply, commissioning, and maintenance of the power plant, then transfer to the jointly-owned Colluli Mining Share Company (CMSC), under a five-year buy-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) contract. Aggreko will also provide the funding for the power solution, which provides certainty over delivery of this preferred solution, Danakali said.

The choice of the BOOT agreement is due to the equipment being available now and not needing to be built, Danakali, a 50:50 owner of CMSC along with the Eritrea government, said. This will also de-risk the development schedule, it added.

The costs of the power solution provided by Aggreko over the five-year contract period is lower than the front-end engineering design study results, according to Danakali.

Aggreko is funding the capital expenditure required for the power plant and all equipment will be transferred to CMSC at no extra cost at the end of the contract period, Danakali explained. This power solution is scalable and can increase/decrease according to CMSC’s needs, it added.

The agreement between Aggreko and CMSC is subject to the conclusion of ongoing negotiations to optimise the scope of works, contract pricing and execution; and board approval of the final investment decision for Colluli.

In July, the Eritrean Ministry of Energy & Mines paved the way for construction to start at the project after accepting the Colluli Notice of Commencement of Mine Development.

Niels Wage, CEO of Danakali, said: “We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Aggreko as our single power provider. With 55 years of experience in delivering high-quality, reliable service to a large number of projects, we are confident they have the capabilities to provide our power needs for Colluli.

“At the early stages of the project development, the HFO solution will provide us with flexibility and reliability, and as confirmed by social and environmental impact assessment, Colluli will have a relatively small impact on the environment. Going forward, once project development is in more of a steady state, we will look to diversify our energy sources towards renewables available in the Danakil region, as per our commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions.”

John Lewis, Managing Director, Africa – Aggreko, added: “Our extensive experience in Eritrea and knowledge of the local market means that we are ideally placed to provide a solution which meets the specific needs of Danakali and deliver a reliable power supply for this project.”

Colluli has a JORC-2012 compliant measured, indicated and inferred resource of 1,289 Mt at 11% K20 equivalent and 7% kieserite.

Voltalia to build 12 MW solar plant at Caledonia’s Blanket gold mine

Caledonia Mining, having raised the required funds to invest in the construction of a solar power plant to supply electricity to the Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe, has appointed Voltalia as the contractor for the project.

Voltalia is an international renewable energy provider and has considerable experience in the delivery of renewable energy projects including the development, construction, operation and maintenance of solar power plants. It is already active notably in Burundi, Malawi and South Africa, according to the company.

Caledonia and Voltalia have agreed an initial design phase for the project after which, subject to the conclusion of an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, procurement and construction are expected to begin with current indicated commissioning for the 12 MW solar plant in the December quarter of 2021.

On completion, the solar plant is expected to provide approximately 27% of the mine’s total electricity demand, significantly reducing the risk to the mine of any further deterioration in the quality of grid power which would necessitate increased use of diesel generators (which are substantially more expensive than grid power), the company said, adding that the plant will also reduce Blanket Mine’s environmental footprint.

Microsoft urges South Africa miners to adopt digital solutions in recovery plans

Microsoft South Africa says it is working with its partner ecosystem and customers to showcase the power of technology, particularly AI and cloud technologies, in helping the country’s mining industry accelerate digital transformation to “reimagine new and better ways of working, drive sustainable recovery, and transform mining communities”.

This follows the launch of Microsoft’s Mining Core – AI Centre of Excellence for Mining facility in Johannesburg earlier this month. The Mining Core, which is the first of its kind in South Africa, makes use of the company’s extensive partner ecosystem. “It allows customers to immerse themselves in emerging technologies to build and create solutions that not only overcome specific business challenges but also broadly enable the sector to grow and prosper,” Microsoft said.

Amr Kamel, Enterprise Director at Microsoft South Africa, explained the industry’s importance to South Africa: “Mining is a critical industry in South Africa, and has historically been a major contributor to the country’s GDP, tax revenue and employment: last year alone, the mining sector employed over 450 000 people, contributed ZAR24.3 billion ($1.5 billion) in taxes and ZAR360.9 billion to GDP.”

The sector has faced challenges in recent years. These include declining output, weakening global cost competitiveness based on the volatility of commodity prices, regulatory uncertainty and unreliable energy supply, according to a report by the country’s Minerals Council.

Combined with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear the sector needs solutions that help it regain its competitiveness and become a key contributor and driver of economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

Technology holds the key to achieving those goals, according to Microsoft.

“Accelerated digital transformation, and the introduction of solutions through emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and data analytics, have the power to help the industry adapt, reinvent and transform in a sustainable and responsible way,” it said.

Kamel added: “Together with our partner ecosystem, we are working to help our customers to navigate three phases – response, recovery, and reimagine – in order to maintain continuity, remain open, drive operational performance and create new business models even in the most difficult of circumstances.”

These solutions, which are conceptualised and built collaboratively, are anchored in four main areas: community services and social impact; health and safety; environment; and responsible digital transformation.

  • Community involvement and engagement is vital for mining companies, and these organisations can use technology to play an important part in empowering surrounding communities, Microsoft says. This includes building critical digital literacy skills that will help the employability of community members, as well as introducing solutions in areas like healthcare, education, agriculture and community support services;
  • Emerging technologies can also help with health and safety, which is always a priority but particularly so in the face of a pandemic. Introducing solutions using technologies like autonomous systems such as drones, drills and vehicles, cognitive services and video analytics for safety management, such as detecting if a worker is wearing a hardhat or protective clothing, can make an impact. These kinds of technologies can also be used to support and manage health and safety protocols related to the pandemic, including social distancing and hygiene measures, Microsoft says;
  • Mining companies are also increasingly using digital solutions to enable sustainable recovery and decrease their environmental footprint, using them to reduce water consumption, waste and work towards being carbon neutral or even carbon negative. A growing trend is companies operating in coal, specifically, pivoting to renewables; and
  • Above all, solutions that are introduced need to have responsible digital transformation and AI at their heart. “Responsible AI needs good guiding principles to ensure that systems are fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent and accountable, and we use our rich partner ecosystem to help with this,” Kamel said.

He concluded: “Digital is the future of mining, and the question now is how quickly companies in the sector can transform to drive growth. This requires partnering with technology companies like Microsoft to reimagine solutions that address specific business challenges and improve operational performance and efficiencies.”

BHP weighs trolley assist and IPCC as part of decarbonisation efforts

BHP has provided an update on its progress on climate action, new climate commitments and how it integrates climate change into corporate strategy and portfolio decisions in a new report.

The company’s climate change approach focuses on reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, investing in low emissions technologies, promoting product stewardship, managing climate-related risk and opportunity, and partnering with others to enhance the global policy and market response, it says.

“BHP supports the aim of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C,” the company clarified.

It explained: “BHP has been active in addressing climate risks for more than two decades, and has already established its long-term goal of achieving net zero operational (Scope 1 and 2) emissions by 2050 and its short-term target of maintaining operational emissions at or below financial year (FY) 2017 levels by FY2022, using carbon offsets as required.”

In the past year, BHP has made progress on this aim, announcing that the Escondida and Spence copper mines in Chile will move to 100% renewable energy by the mid-2020s, and, last week, awarding new renewable energy contracts for its Queensland coal assets, and the world’s first LNG-fuelled Newcastlemax bulk carrier tender.

BHP’s climate change briefing and 2020 climate change report outline how the company will accelerate its own actions and help others to do the same, it said. Today’s update sets out:

  • A medium-term target to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% from adjusted FY2020 levels by FY2030;
  • Scope 3 actions to contribute to decarbonisation in its value chain. This includes supporting the steelmaking industry to develop technologies and pathways capable of 30% emissions intensity reduction with widespread adoption expected post-2030 and, in terms of transportation, supporting emissions intensity reduction of 40% in BHP-chartered shipping of products;
  • Strengthened linking of executive remuneration to delivery of BHP’s climate plan; and
  • Insight into the performance of BHP’s portfolio in a transition to a 1.5°C scenario.

The report also outlined some examples of emission reduction projects the miner is considering, which will be weighed as part of the maintenance capital category of its capital allocation framework. This includes solar power installations; alternative material movement technologies such as overland conveyors and in-pit crush and convey solutions; and trolley assist to displace diesel for haul trucks.

The company expanded on this in its report: “The path to electrification of mining equipment will likely include solutions such as trolley assist, in-pit crush and convey, overland conveyors and battery solutions.

“Diesel displacement represents a higher risk, higher capital step towards decarbonisation, so a phased approach to execution is proposed with particular emphasis on Minerals Americas-operated assets that are further advanced on the decarbonisation journey. Taking a transitional approach to electrification provides flexibility to allow for the potential for rapid development of emerging technologies and to resolve the complexities of integrating these technologies into existing operations.

“During FY2021, we will seek to collaborate further with International Council on Mining and Metals members, industry and original equipment manufacturers to progress research and development to reduce costs and assess any potential impacts from electrified mining equipment solutions to replace current diesel options.”

BHP Chief Executive Officer, Mike Henry, said of the report: “I’m pleased today to show how we are accelerating our own actions and helping others to do the same in addressing climate change. We see ourselves as accountable to take action. We recognise that our investors, our people and the communities and nations who host our operations or buy our products have increasing expectations of us – and are responsive to these.

“Our approach to climate change is defined by a number of key requirements. Our actions must be of substance. They must be real, tangible actions to drive emissions down. We must focus on what we can control inside our business, and work with others to help them reduce emissions from the things that they control. To create long-term value and returns over generations, we must continue to generate value and returns within the strong portfolio we have today, while shaping our portfolio over time to benefit from the megatrends playing out in the world including decarbonisation and electrification.

“Our portfolio is well positioned to support the transition to a lower carbon world aligned with the Paris Agreement. Our commodities are essential for global economic growth and the world’s ability to transition to and thrive in a low carbon future. Climate change action makes good economic sense for BHP and enables us to create further value.”