SANTIAGO – Mining companies in Chile, by far the world’s largest copper producer, are examining their energy contracts to see if they can renegotiate terms to incorporate now-cheaper renewable power, company sources say.
The mines, long reliant on coal and gas to power everything from milling to drilling, are also inviting a broad range of wind and solar producers to major energy tenders for the first time.
The shift away from dirty energy in some ways reflects the unique situation of Chile, which has virtually no local gas or coal reserves, but a long, arid coastline amenable to wind and solar power.
But it is also a response to technology-driven declines in worldwide renewables prices, which at times are allowing clean energy generators to undercut fossil fuel providers even in countries like Chile with no significant subsidies.
Companies like Spain’s Acciona Energia and Ireland’s Mainstream are set to benefit from the change. The moves could also imply major cost savings for Chile’s copper industry, which spends around 20 percent of overhead on energy, according to Chile’s mining industry body.
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