Sun-Drenched Miners Look to the Skies to Cut Fuel Costs in Half – by David Stringer and Paul Allen (Bloomberg News – August 26, 2015)

The DeGrussa copper and gold mine in Australia’s sun-scorched outback is getting a solar farm, the latest example of the industry embracing clean energy.

The plant will replace about 5 million liters (1.3 million gallons) of diesel a year, a fifth of the mine’s energy needs. Energy generated by the system may eventually cost about half that of diesel-generated power, according to Sandfire Resources NL, the deposit’s owner.

Miners including Rio Tinto Group are installing new solar plants from Chile to South Africa, betting they’ll deliver long-term savings even as tumbling oil prices cut power costs. The global solar-power market for mining companies may grow to about $2 billion a year by 2022 from about $42 million in 2013, according to Navigant Consulting Inc.

“Solar-power providers are specifically targeting mines right now and it’s about replacing diesel,” Dexter Gauntlett, a senior research analyst at Navigant said by phone from Portland, Oregon. With lower costs, “it becomes a no-brainer,” he said.

Miners are joining chemical producers, steelmakers and others in seeking to replace traditional power sources with renewable energy.

ArcelorMittal, the biggest steelmaker, said last month it plans to use waste gases to produce low-carbon fuel for vehicles. Explosives maker Incitec Pivot Ltd. has experimented with solar-powered offices at remote sites.

In the southern Indian state of Kerala, Cochin International Airport is the world’s first to be run exclusively on solar energy, according to Bosch Ltd.

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