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John Lewis, Managing Director, Aggreko Africa
The mining sector has undergone significant change over the past year. Change that was both expected and unexpected. On one hand, digital transformation, integrated operations, supply chain efficiencies, and investments into tools that embedded a competitive advantage where all items on the organisation’s to-do list. On the other, the pandemic introduced remarkably complex layers of uncertainty and drove rapid digital and investment change that was both unexpected, and costly. Mining companies are facing a complex landscape over the next 12 months – a landscape defined by the need to refine operations, improve efficiencies, and cut costs while remaining invested in clean energy, robust governance, and mine safety and security.
The Deloitte Tracking the Trends 2021 report highlights how important the mining sector has become in leading the world towards cleaner energy usage. The move to more sustainable and renewable energy sources has become critical, not just in light of climate change and reputation management, but to ensure that the sector has access to reliable energy, consistently. The sector is facing an opportunity, one that can potentially allow for the mining sector to reimagine itself and its future, leveraging alternative energy methodologies and solutions to translate the current energy complexity into revenue-generating profitability.
The energy challenges
The mining sector must revisit its approaches to traditional energy usage. The concerns that have been aired around climate change and pollution are being supported by governments, regulations, and organisations. Decision-making is influenced by the perceptions of clean and green that come with a brand or investment – this trend is increasingly obvious in the growing regulation and investment into companies that invest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks. The industry is at a point where it needs to focus its strategies and investments towards energy solutions that have value beyond keeping the lights on.
Fortunately, making intelligent energy decisions is not as complex or as costly as it was in the past. Sustainable energy platforms and solutions have evolved significantly over the past few years, with the onus sitting on the energy supplier and the innovator as much as on the mining sector. Today, investment into renewable and inventive energy solutions has changed the landscape considerably, providing the mining industry with far more scope when it comes to reliable and scalable energy.
Another advantage of investing in alternate forms of energy is that the mining sector is cost-saving. With the right partner and the right systems in place, mining companies can reduce their reliance on the grid and thereby cut costs. Considering how high the price of this essential line item can be, these savings can translate into long-term business value and allow for the more intelligent allocation of funds to other areas of the business, such as digital transformation and mine safety. With site-appropriate power solutions in place, the sector can tightly manage the costs of grid connections and energy consumption while also gaining tighter control over emissions within the mines.
Unpacking the advantages
Cost-effective power is all about optimisation and the intelligent use of variable platforms to maximise output and energy efficiency. The Resolute Mining Ltd company set out to cut the costs of its Syama Underground Mine in Mali by 40% to reduce its reliance on diesel and to potentially bypass the need for costly connections to the grid. The result was a 16-year contract with Aggreko to build, operate and maintain the world’s largest off-grid hybrid power plant that uses thermal, solar, and batteries to augment, and significantly reduce reliance on, the existing diesel power plant. It also removed the risk that is usually associated with solar – the short planning horizon for the mines is difficult to align with the lifespan of the average PV park – with the Aggreko solution that deftly balances solar with battery to ensure an ongoing power supply that is scalable and more flexible.
This hybrid approach to mine energy planning has immense potential for the sector. It allows for mining operations to manage their energy provision more carefully over the long and short term, and it can be scaled up or down to support different mining requirements. Aggreko has been working closely with the sector for many years, helping companies to maximise their energy portfolio and refine their green energy approaches using market-leading solutions and methodologies. By collaborating closely with mining organisations, Aggreko can translate power complexity into seamless delivery that is green, ESG relevant, governance specific, and cost-effective.