Oz Minerals to use solar power to run a $1 billion copper mine in South Australia

Australian copper miner Oz Minerals is looking to solar power to help run a $1 billion copper mine it plans to build in South Australia, in what would be the biggest commitment to renewables by a mining company in Australia.

Managing director Andrew Cole says the company could use solar power to help run the proposed Carrapateena copper mine, one of the largest mining project proposals in Australia at the moment.

A company spokesman told RenewEconomy that a dedicated team had been created to look at various energy options around the world. He said no conclusions had been reached, and no technology had been ruled in or ruled out.

Mining companies in Australia have largely steered clear of deploying renewable energy on their mine sites, preferring to rely on the grid, or on-site gas and diesel plants. But there has been growing interest.

Sandfire Resources has installed a 10MW solar plant with 6MW of battery storage to reduce the amount of diesel it uses at its Degrussa mine in Western Australia, while Rio Tinto has a 1.7MW solar array at its Weipa mine which could be expanded to 6.7MW and battery storage.

And BHP Billiton has also expressed interest in solar and battery storage after buying into data from the world’s biggest solar and storage project planned for north Queensland.

Oz Minerals’ Prominent Hill copper mine and other projects, including BHP’s Olympic Dam copper mine, were badly affected by the South Australia blackout, and it is thought that big mines and other large energy users, as well as remote towns and communities, will look to more local generation and micro-grids as a way of ensuring energy security.

Carrapateena is located in the same region as Prominent Hill and Olympic Dam, where there are numerous solar projects being proposed, from the likes of DP Energy, from coal group Adani, from former executives of the owners of the Hazelwood brown coal generator, by Lyon Solar, and also Solar Reserve, which says there is a potential market for six large scale solar tower and molten salt storage plants.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson