Incorporating the use of Renewable Energy in the Mining Industry


Camila Beltran, University of Bio Bio; Nathalie Risso, The University of Arizona; Fabricio Salgado, University of Bio Bio; Roberto Belmar , University of Bio Bio; Moe Momayez, The University of Arizona

Increasing energy demand, higher production costs, and the need to maintain more efficient and environmentally friendly operations are leading the mining industry to switch into more sustainable energy sources. Today, renewable energy represents a valuable alternative for reducing energy costs and environmental impact. This issue becomes particularly relevant for operations located in remote areas, where higher investment for energy supply and distribution may be required. These factors have lead companies to look into new energy efficiency strategies, and also into more diverse energy sources. Even though there are some mine sites using renewable energy, the vast majority still relies in more traditional sources. For mining companies to switch from this traditional approach, a proper assessment on the impact of utilization and reliability of renewable energy is required. We study the impact of using Renewable Energy in the mining and minerals industry. We consider as case study the use of renewable energy in mining in Chile. There, the most important energy source in the industry remains fossil fuel; however, renewable energies are being incorporated at an ever increasing rate, being solar and wind power the most used today. We analyze the implementations performed by 3 large mining conglomerates: Codelco, Antofagasta Minerals and Rio Tinto. We focus on assessing the main impacts of renewable energy over performance, reliability and sustainability. Main challenges for the use of renewable energy are non-deterministic constraints associated to power availability, and the requirement of reliability studies and robust implementations. Proper design of strategies that can adequately handle these issues will lead to efficient energy implementations, which will allow maintaining continuous operations. Also, energy efficiency must be considered in order to take advantage of these resources. The satisfaction of these conditions would help improve making the use of renewable energy a worldwide standard in the mining industry.
Mots Clés: Renewable Energy, Sustainability