Infrastructure, Energy & MaterialsMay 28, 2019

Powering Up Solar Innovation in Mining

Solar Power Reflects Growing Role Green Power in the Industry The future…
Avatar Thomas Grand

Solar Power Reflects Growing Role Green Power in the Industry

The future of mining is one that is more sustainable, with change driven by innovation as the industry and its Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) partners adopt new ways of thinking and new ways of doing. Mining companies are starting to “green” their operations with alternative sources of energy to play their part in mitigating climate change and reducing the impact they have on the local communities. Sustainability and new energy strategies are now central themes in the corporate objectives of most mining companies today.

With mining occurring in increasingly remote sites around the world, power availability is another factor driving change as fewer operations can connect to power grids, making them dependent on diesel fuel generators. Fuel for these generators is transported or piped in, often over long distances and difficult terrain at high costs, leaving mining companies exposed to potential delays and leakages into the environment.

Miners in African countries faced with the challenges of operating remote mines are amongst some of the first to adopt alternative energy sources. In Burkina Faso, IAMGOLD’s Essakane gold mine, located 330 kilometers away from the country’s power grid, accesses carbon-free electricity from the world’s largest, and recently commissioned by Total Eren, hybrid solar-thermal plant. The plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16,800 tonnes and fuel consumption by six million liters per year.

Even when mine sites are connected to the power grid, they still face reliability issues that they cannot control – and the costs of a mine site going down without power can be high. A 24-hour blackout in South Australia in 2016 shut production at BHP’s Olympic Dam mine for almost two weeks. That is why improved storage and a fall in the cost of solar and wind power is playing a role in making these options more attractive.

New ways of thinking and doing require collaboration and a business model based on a single source of knowledge that allows knowledge to be captured and capitalized from every stakeholder. With this, mining companies and their partners can make change happen faster with better results. In this approach, a master model, constructed from single source of truth, connects to all documents and data across the project lifecycle, eliminating silos. This platform-based model harmonizes understanding and the work done by all the actors and disciplines, reducing risks.

With more clean energy projects ramping up in mining, there is an opportunity for Engineering, Procurement, and Construction companies and owner operators to organize their projects digitally to ensure on-time, to spec delivery and efficient operation before striking ground. Better planning from the initial stages of a project brings the potential to reduce costs because decisions made before first design model makes it possible to positively impact future performance.

Engineering and construction projects are highly complex, involving many actors. Collaboration and accurate information is required to ensure right the first time engineering and assembly. Yet, the typical approach taken to deliver them is chaotic, marked by the isolation of the stakeholders from one another due to unstructured, and often paper and email-based information management and sharing.

Change to projects is inevitable and chaos acts to amplify negative effects when there is inadequate change management. Design incompatibilities, procurement delays, poor cost visibility, regulatory approval complications, and suboptimal operational performance are just a few of the possible consequences. A model-based system overcomes these issues by aligning everything and everyone, allowing upstream changes to be understood and accounted for downstream. Model-based systems have the added benefit of enabling virtual twins of operations, which aids in operations and maintenance.

A greener, more efficient mining industry is taking shape as companies embed sustainability thinking into their DNA. Model-based platforms that enable collaboration and a business model based on a single source of knowledge can help them realize their green ambitions by enable change to happen faster, more efficiently, and safely by aligning all actors involved in every project.

To learn more about a model based, platform approach to project delivery, read the story “Reduce Project Risk at Every Turn.”

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