A report from Fitch Solutions has found that wind and solar power will become integral to powering mining operations, as the cost of renewable energy falls.
The report also claims that carbon pricing programmes will force mining companies to adopt renewable sources of energy. While there are fears this could undermine the profits of companies based in countries with severe financial penalties for using carbon, many companies are already investing in renewable energy sources to avoid penalties.
Chile has introduced a carbon pricing scheme of $5 per tonne, and up to nine mining companies in the country have introduced wind or solar plants at their operations. Copper miner Antofagasta Minerals already generates 191.5MW of solar photovoltaic energy at its mines, the largest output from wind or solar sources of any company featured in the report.
Behind Antofagasta, Chilean companies CAP and Collahuasi have the next-highest renewable energy output, with 101MW and 25MW respectively.
“Presently, the majority of mining operations globally continue to rely on traditional power sources, mainly fossil fuel-based grid power or off-grid diesel-generated power, while accounting for up to 11% of global energy consumption,” said Marija Maisch in PV Magazine. “But, with 1GW of renewables already built at mining sites across the world, and another 1GW in the pipeline, the transition appears to be well underway.”
Consultancy firm Navigant estimates that investment in renewable energy in the mining industry will grow dramatically over the next five years. According to the 2013 report ‘Renewable Energy in the Mining Industry’, Asia-Pacific and Latin America will see the most significant increases in renewable investment, from $51m and $37m respectively in 2013, to estimated figures of $1.3bn and $1bn by 2022.
The Fitch report awards countries two separate scores out of 100, based on the value of their mining industry and effectiveness of their programmes rewarding companies for using renewable energy. Higher scores indicate a more attractive market and greater financial rewards, respectively.
Of the 13 countries with the highest industry value score, only three – Russia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana – have a renewable industry reward score of 50 or lower.
Argentina is also unique among the 13 countries, being the only one to receive a renewable reward score higher than its industry value score.
Last year, climate research organisation CDP published a report titled ‘Digging Deep’, which found that the world’s 12 largest mining companies alone produced the same level of carbon emissions as the whole of India. The report also claimed that the application of a carbon price of $7 per tonne would cost the global mining industry $16bn.