When you think about the mining industry, sustainability and environmental consciousness might not be the first things to come to mind.
However, particularly in recent times, there has been a push for the industry to utilise more renewable energy solutions in day-to-day operations. So, let's consider how such innovation fits in with the industry at large and what might have caused the shift for heightened energy efficiency.
A track record for innovation
Thomas Newcomen invented the first steam engine.
Innovation has always been closely tied with the mining industry. In fact, environmental regulations date back to Spain's Almaden mercury mine in the seventeenth century. Major advances were made in eighteenth century England though, when Thomas Newcomen invented the first steam engine to draw water from tin mines.
The following improvements to the engine by James Watt led to the creation of condensation chambers, which helped develop the steam locomotive that would not only see use in moving mined ore, but other above ground transportation as well.
From there inventions such as safety lamps, dynamite and metal purification solutions further saw the industry continually improve and innovate to increase performance outputs and reduce costs.
Why renewable energy solutions?
The quick pace of technological innovation, as well as the fact that the entire mining industry is built on sourcing depleting resources, mean there's a constant need for innovation. As cost efficiency remains a main strategic goal, mining companies face the challenge of operating as energy efficient as possible.
According to Ernst & Young (EY), the push to balance sustainability and running costs will lead to a $6 trillion investment in renewable energy infrastructure by 2035. In an age where more mines are expanding to remote locations and have connectivity issues with fossil fuelled power, drastic reductions in sustainable energy solutions are more than welcome.
As such, EY suggests there are some key factors that strongly influence the industry's move to renewable energy options. First, customers, governments and communities are increasingly expecting sustainable operations. Second, rising fossil fuel and commodity prices put margins under pressure. The volatility coming from this increases the need for sustainable business practises.
The mining industry has invested heavily in energy-generating assets both on- and off-site. Mining Weekly even suggests renewable energy firms will specifically target mining companies by offering power purchase agreements to minimise upfront costs to operations, with fixed yearly fees in place once a project commences.
Scott Fraser, director of Power Projects at Barrick Gold Corporation, emphasises the financial benefit to mines choosing to go renewable:
"Renewable energy cost structures have reduced to the point that, particularly for isolated mines, in some cases, they have become more economic than diesel-fi red generators," he said.
Considering the fact that the running cost of photovoltaic solar electricity decreased by 58 per cent between 2010 and 2015, a heightened focus on sustainability across the industry is set be a smart move for long-term success.
Keeping your equipment on form
Meeting environmental standards can have many benefits.
By meeting sustainability expectations of stakeholders, companies can greatly enhance their reputation. More than that though, enhancing operations to meet current as well as proposed carbon and environmental regulatory standards can improve organisations' competitive edge.
With this in mind, it's crucial for decision makers within a business to ensure all equipment meets requirements and is kept well maintained. Whether it's belt scales, density gauges or custom engineered measurement solutions, our expert team at SRO Technology can help.
We are brand-agnostic specialists in instrumentation solutions geared to provide you with quality know-how in design, maintenance and repair. Do you want to ensure long-term success for your operations? Get in touch with us today and have a chat about what we can do for you.