The BHP thermal coal and minerals spin-off South32 has announced its first move into solar power, ordering a 3MW solar farm for the Cannington silver and lead mine in north-west Queensland.
South32 says the solar farm will be one of the first to combine in a hybrid set-up with an existing gas generator, and will be predominantly used to supply power to the village and airport, with some excess going towards the mining and processing operations.
The 3MW installation is to be made by EDL and SunShift, which provides “temporary” installations that can be moved off-site – an attractive option for mining companies whose assets often have a shorter life-span than the solar installation.
“The new six hectare, three megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) farm will be integrated into the current gas power station and will be built this year,” the company said in a statement.
It said the solar plant would reduce emissions by between 4,000 and 6,000 tonnes a year and pay for itself through reduced energy costs.
South32 was spun out of BHP to hold its energy (thermal) coal assets, as well as a wide range of other minerals commodities. The Cannington mine, some 200kms south east of Mt Isa, is the world’s biggest silver and lead mine.
“Renewable costs have reduced significantly, so this is in line with our commitment to the environment and it also makes great economic sense,” South32 Chief Sustainability Officer, Rowena Smith, said.
“It’s an exciting time in the industry when renewable energy technology and innovation is applied to deliver power to our world-class remote mining operations.”
The company said as the first solar installation, the project would be used as a pilot and to guide similar projects at other operations.
It said this was the second largest solar installation in a remote, off-grid mining operation and the first to hybridise a gas-fired power station.
Other miners are also looking at solar for their grid connected operations, including OzMinerals, which is looking at major renewable energy installations to underpin the expansion of its major mining operations in South Australia, and a WA garnet miner north of Perth.