Leading mining company OZ Minerals will use commercial-scale solar PV, wind and battery storage to help power its Carrapeteena Copper-Gold Mine, located to the north of Port Augusta, as part of a significant shift in the mining sector towards using clean energy technologies to power remote mining operations.

As part of the project, electric vehicle charging facilities for light vehicles used at the mine site will also be incorporated into the renewables and storage solution. A traditional diesel generator unit will also be included to supplement the supply of power to the site.

The South Australian government welcomed the announcement and hopes that the project can serve as a model for future remote mining projects to integrate renewables and storage to supplement diesel-powered generation.

“Low cost, reliable power is vital for our mining industry and this power plant will help forge the path to a cheaper and cleaner energy future,” SA energy minister van Holst Pellekaan said.

“The remote location of mines often means they operate completely off-grid and are heavily reliant on diesel-fuel powered generators.”

“OZ Minerals’ power plant will demonstrate the commercial value of wind and solar PV asset at a remote mine site, and thereby enhancing the feasibility of mines in the development phase.”

The South Australian government chipped in $1 million in grant funding to support the project. OZ Minerals sees it as an opportunity to achieve cost savings associated with the energy used at its mining sites, as well as reducing the environmental footprint of operations traditionally powered by diesel.

The Carrapeteena Copper-Gold Mine will be one of the largest copper projects in Australia and has the capacity to produce up to 65,000 tonnes of copper and 67,000oz of gold annually, across the projected 20-year life of the mine.

“To do this sustainably, we need to develop solutions which enable us to integrate more renewable energy generation on mine sites, whilst ensuring we can manage our demand,” OZ Minerals CEO Andrew Cole said.

As part of the project, OZ Minerals is looking to partner with industry, research institutions, universities, government, start-ups, business incubators and non-government entities to test, trial and pilot new technologies at the Carrapateena site.

“Our vision is to build the first internationally recognized collaboration hub for renewable energy and demand management related activities on a mine site,” Cole said.

It is estimated that a total of 250MW of electricity is consumed across all of the remote off-grid or fringe-of-grid mining operations across South Australia. The company hopes to tap into this market and will open an office in South Australia.

The addition of ground-mounted solar energy systems has become an increasingly attractive option for remote mining sites. The mining operations have been dependent on the trucking-in a supply of diesel to power sites, which has become increasingly expensive. Solar plants are able to supplement the diesel generators, by supplying power to sites during the day, reducing the demand for fuel.

The announcement of OZ Mineral’s plan to install solar and storage at the Carrapeteena site follows a similar announcement by the company to install a similar system at its Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

Construction is expected to commence in July, with the project expected to be completed by January 2020.