Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart – one of the country’s staunchest defenders of coal power – may be about to go green.
Well, at least for her substantial iron ore operations in West Australia’s Pilbara region, where her company Roy Hill is on the look out for “alternative” power technologies and emission reductions.
Roy Hill has placed an ad on Seek for a principal advisor whose main roles will be to conduct research, analysis and recommendations to “increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions through alternative forms of fuel and energy.”
The role also includes managing tenders and the “ability to influence senior management” – presumably about the present and future technologies that the new appointee is expected to be an expert in.
Rinehart, of course, has a major interest in one of the coal projects in the vast Galilee Basin in north Queensland, and is the biggest financial supporter of the right-wing and anti-climate science think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. But even coal miners are realising that when it comes to their own business, renewables are offering a cheap and reliable alternative to fossil fuels.
It’s very likely that Roy Hill management is watching with keen interest what’s going on around it, particularly the nearby iron ore operations of fellow iron ore billionaire “Twiggy” Forrest, which have committed to installing a 60MW solar farm, the largest renewable installation for any mining project in Australia.
That 60MW solar farm, along with a new transmission line extension from the Roy Hill mine (which is supplied by the Newman gas generator and battery operated by Alinta) will deliver significant cost savings for Forrest’s Fortescue Metals, which up to now has had to rely on off-grid gas and diesel.
The job description for Roy Hill says its new principal advisor will be required to have deep knowledge of the local grid (known as the North West Interconnected System), and power purchase agreements – suggesting the company is thinking along similar lines.
Forrest has now gone one step further by joining software billionaire Michael Cannon-Brookes in providing first round funds for the massive sun Cable project in Northern Territory, which is looking to build a 10 gigawatt solar farm, and 22 gigawatt hours of battery storage to supply Singapore and local industry.
Roy Hill has already benefited from the big battery that was installed by Alinta at its Newman gas generator, which has enabled the company to switch off “spinning” reserve, cutting emissions, slashing fuel costs and also providing a huge increase in reliability for customers such as Roy Hill.
Many miners are looking to adopt wind, solar and battery storage at significant scale given their falling costs and improved controls and integration technology that provides a cheaper and more reliable alternative to the current dependence on gas and diesel.
Some miners are looking to add processing and added value revenue streams given the low cost of wind and solar, rather than simply exporting the ore overseas.
One of those is Element25, also in the Pilbara, which is looking for majority renewables supply to build a manganese metals facility. Another is Oz Minerals, looking for wind and solar to help power a huge new nickel project near the border of W.A. and the Northern Territory.
Last week, the first stage of the ground-breaking renewables power supply at the Agnew mine in the Goldfields – the first to integrate wind, solar and battery storage – was officially opened. The solar array has been installed, with the wind farm and battery storage to be added next.