What defines the mining sector’s future? Is it the ability to adapt to new environments and market demands? Or is the foresight to invest in new power alternatives and renewable solutions that can change the market and drive growth? The answer is simple – both, writes John Lewis, Managing Director, Aggreko Africa.

Mining has been under immense pressure over the past few years, particularly during the 2020 lockdown. The restrictions on movement, distance, and access have significantly hit bottom lines and growth forecasts and this impact will likely be felt for some time to come. It’s a complex climate, but it’s one that can be managed with futureproof investment and planning.

When it comes to energy, the mining sector has faced plenty of criticism, from activists and investors alike. Renewable and sustainable solutions that pay attention to environmental pressures have become critical for the industry. Not only have investors and portfolios been dropped in the mining industry – another blow to the sector – but direct investment has followed suit.

However, the reality is that the mining sector is essential to the development of renewable energy solutions and platforms. The minerals and metals provided by the sector are the metals and minerals required by the sustainable energy industry for development and operations.

There has to be a balance between the needs of the sustainable energy sector, climate change, and the mining sector. And this can be found in new forms of energy and solutions that change the frontiers of mining power. Solutions that work with the sector’s abilities and requirements, and its ongoing innovation in mining depths, abilities, and investments.

The answer in energy

Mining has always pushed the boundaries of what can be, what could be, so it can deliver to increasingly demanding market expectations. This has resulted in deeper mines in remote locations with limited access to infrastructure. It has also forced a change in how mining organisations approach cooling, energy provision, and health and safety.

What is needed is access to flexible cooling solutions that can adapt to changing site requirements, weather, and environments without adding to the environmental or cost burden.

The availability of capital and funding for the sector is one of the biggest challenges right now. The costs of exploration and production have affected profits and investors remain reticent about putting their money where the new projects are – not just due to climate issues but also due to risk aversion.

For many companies in mining, flexible finance has become an established way of helping them to push boundaries, explore new possibilities, and minimise risk as much as possible.

This is where the as-a-Service methodology, often cited in technology, becomes of immense value to the sector. Rented energy solutions allow companies to scale – up or down – on-demand and within specific parameters. They also use a more dynamic blend of energy sources that are reliable, sustainable, and easier on the planet.

Leaders in the energy as-a-Service market can deliver highly specialised cooling, heating, and other power requirements using hybrid and energy storage systems alongside some of the more traditional products that use diesel or gas. These systems can be customised to fit very specific client environments and remote locations and the challenges of maintenance, upgrading, refuelling or retooling are left in the capable hands of the service provider, not the mine.

They also make a big difference to the bottom line.

The partnerships for change

The further the mines stay away from the grid, the harder it is to find reliable energy and service providers that can deliver this energy reliably. This is where partnerships play a vital role in helping the sector to balance its power needs versus market demands. Working with a reliable service provider, the sector can re-evaluate its energy usage policies and adopt more environmentally aware solutions instead.

Remote locations and limited infrastructure suddenly become less of a burden and more of an opportunity to establish sustainable systems and reduce emissions.

Aggreko provides hybrid solutions that allow diesel generators to run at a lower capacity with immediate and measurable emission reductions. This is then synchronised to solar and battery storage to ensure that there is always stored energy in the event that there’s limited solar available.

With Aggreko, the industry can reduce the cost of power, boost production, and transform environmental footprints without compromising on efficiency and mine safety.

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