Renewable energy is economically and environmentally attractive but variable by nature. Mining’s need for power is expensive, continuous and rising. Improved energy efficiency can narrow the gap between RE supply and production demand.
By Russell A. Carter, Contributing Editor
Mining is a power-hungry business. It takes massive amounts of energy to excavate and process ore into a marketable mineral commodity. Although it’s hard to compare operating costs between mines located in different districts or regions, it’s commonly estimated that a typical site may incur energy costs that represent anywhere from 10% to 30% of overall operating costs. In some mineral-rich countries, the mining industry is by far the largest user of electrical power, accounting for more than 20% of national consumption in Chile and more than 50% in Zambia, for example. Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) predicts that with rising mineral demand and falling ore grades, mining’s energy demand will increase 36% by 2035.