Mining giant Anglo American has installed a floating solar farm in a tailings pond associated with its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile.

The floating solar farm, which comprises 256 photovoltaic panels, will power the operations of the copper mine. It is also expected to bring down the miner’s use of water for the operation and eventually help in boosting efficiency at the copper deposit.

The Los Bronces copper mine is located in the country’s Valparaiso region, on the outskirts of Santiago. Its tailings pond holds the liquid waste resulting from the mining operations.

The pilot floating solar farm has a capacity of 86KW, which translates to a power generation of about 150,000kWh a year. Its panels were tethered to the bottom of the man-made lagoon and placed over the top of the resulting toxic ground minerals and effluents from the digging of rocks at the copper mine.

The tethering of the solar panels ensures that they are properly oriented even in cases of strong wind conditions and varying water levels.

Chile Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica was quoted by Reuters as saying: “I hope that, in practice, it extends to other [mines] in the country.

“It’s an excellent alternative for generating energy and making better use of water.”

“It’s an excellent alternative for generating energy and making better use of water.”

Another advantage of the floating solar panels is that it will shield the liquid in the tailings dam from direct sunlight, giving an 80% reduction in evaporation to boost water recovery rates, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

The solar panels installed for the Los Bronces operations have been designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the Andes Mountains, where it is located 3,400m above sea level. Anglo American claims that the panels, which are located in an area that often witnesses snow and heavy rains, can endure wind speeds of 210kmph.

Los Bronces operations vice president Patricio Chacana, was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying: “We are advancing toward a more sustainable mining activity by actively developing new solutions and stimulating other ways of thinking and working.”