Despite barriers to adoption, cost pressure driving renewed mining interest in renewable energy – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – October 22, 2015)

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TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Mine operators are in the current subdued economic reality increasingly looking at renewable electricity sources as a way to reduce current and future costs at operations; however, lower commodity prices hinder the widespread adoption of renewables, as falling profits and lower fuel prices maintain certain barriers.

This had resulted in miners shifting their primary motivation for implementing renewable projects to being a financial solution to drive down costs and improve productivity. Previous “softer” motivations involved the improvement of a project’s environmental footprint or satisfying social responsibility commitments, AngloGold Ashanti global VP of energy management and electrical asset integrity Bill Allemon told an audience during the third annual Energy and Mines summit, in which Mining Weekly Online participated.

Speaking during a panel discussion examining energy priorities, timelines and new technologies, he noted that while the company’s activities were mainly focused on the African tropical belt, where hydropower generation was impacted by ten-year drought cycles, the company had highlighted that each cycle was getting worse and more punctuated.

Allemon advised that while the region seemed to be “coming off the trough” of one such a cycle, this, combined with ageing infrastructure and maintenance backlogs, had created a “perfect storm”, since decreased hydropower generation capabilities had to cope with increased load demand as the region expanded economically.

Further, he remarked that AngloGold’s operations in Ghana, Tanzania and Brazil were suffering as a result of ageing and crumbling electricity infrastructure. Many of the current generating stations either needed to be fully rebuilt or replaced, which had prompted the company to consider third-party, over-the-fence solutions, Allemon said.

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