“In some cases, energy use can account for as much as 50 percent of a mine's operating costs," said Dennis Gibson, Chief Technical Officer for mining at Black & Veatch.
Because of their often remote locations, and the need for reliable power, many mining operations are forced to rely on diesel generators to power their operations. These generators may be reliable, but running them is expensive and produces significant carbon emissions.
For these reasons, a growing number of mining companies are incorporating on-site or locally produced renewable energy into their operations, according to Gibson. He recommended resilient power solutions, including solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower. Often microgrids are connected to larger grids for power sharing.
“In many locations, where environmental factors are favorable, there is significant wind and solar potential to provide far more than token power to mining operations."
Dennis Gibson, Chief Technical Officer for mining at Black & Veatch
The Chilean government has been pushing mines to acquire a much larger share of their water from alternative sources, such as the sea.
“Mining companies really need to think about diversifying their water sources as a way to manage risk," not just as a function of cost, said Brady Hays, Black & Veatch's Project Director for Escondida. “The advantage of water desalination is that it takes water from a source that is uncorrelated with hydrologic cycle risk."
For instance, the Escondida Water Supply project in Chile, which Black & Veatch is involved with, will deliver 57 million gallons of treated seawater per day to the Escondida mine, the largest copper mine in the world.
Whether the specific solution to a particular water or energy challenge involves renewable energy, microgrids, water treatment or other technology, the key is for mining companies to look beyond the immediate problem and toward a holistic integrated solution.
"Microgrids enable you to optimize your energy use around power quality and reliability."
Jason Abiecunas, Project Manager for Black & Veatch's power business
How Chile Is Responding to Water Scarcity
|Public and private sectors are teaming up to tackle the challenge:|
|The northern part of Chile is the driest desert in the world.|
|It is also the location of 90 percent of Chile's copper mines.|
|Chile enacted legislation relating to water rights to protect aquifers.|
|Mining companies pushed to acquire water from alternative sources, such as the sea.|
|The Escondida mine, the largest copper mine in the world, will acquire 57 million gallons per day of treated seawater.|
Subject Matter Experts
Dennis Gibson: GibsonDB@bv.com
Jason Abiecunas: AbiecunasJP@bv.com
Brady Hays: HaysBF@bv.com