• In a pre-feasibility study, Oz Minerals has proposed to power its new copper and nickle mine in West Musgrave province with renewables
  • It believes power can be generated from a 50 MW hybrid power plant with wind, solar, diesel and battery storage
  • Project development and ownership can be outsourced while the company sources power under a PPA
  • Such an off-grid power plant can support up to 80% of the mine’s electricity requirements

Australian copper mining company Oz Minerals is contemplating drawing up to 80% of the electricity needs of its new planned West Musgrave open pit copper and nickel sulphide mine to come from renewable sources. In a pre-feasibility study (PFS), the miner says, it could draw power from an off-grid renewable system comprising an optimized mix of solar, wind and diesel supported by a battery installation.

Factoring in consistent solar and wind potential in the region gives the miner confidence to have the mine powered by a 50 MW hybrid power plant under a build-own-operate-maintain (BOOM) structure that can be developed for an estimated AUD 275 million ($185 million). Ownership of such a structure can be figured out later, it suggests, but also proposes that the second best option would be to go in for a gas pipeline.

If the renewables option is exercised, after a feasibility study, Oz Minerals says it would make the West Musgrave one among the world’s largest fully off-grid, renewable powered mines.

Management expects no upfront capital cost on setting up the hybrid power plant as the idea is to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with suppliers.

The West Musgrave mine is proposed to be developed in West Musgrave province in partnership with Cassini to produce 28,000 tons of copper and 22,000 tons of nickel annually for a period of 26 years. Oz Minerals CEO Andrew Cole said, “The Pre-Feasibility Study is now complete and has confirmed the project can be a low carbon, low cost, long life mine producing copper and nickel, both in-demand minerals for the renewable and electrification industries.”

Lowered costs of electricity generation from renewables makes for a competitive case for mining companies to rely less on conventional power grids and expensive diesel generated power. A September 2018 Fitch Solutions Macro Research commentary added that regulatory support and pressure to improve their ESG standards will drive more companies globally to generate power from renewables, mainly wind and PV (see Mining Industry To Go Solar PV & Wind).   

Other Australian miners are also warming up to renewables, particularly solar to power their operations. Fortescue Minerals announced a new 150 MW PV and battery storage project with 150 MW gas fired capacity for its Iron Bridge Magnetite Project in February 2020. Previously, in November 2019 EDL energized the first stage of 54 MW hybrid renewable energy microgrid project in Western Australia integrating 4 MW solar with 19 MW gas and diesel for Agnew Gold Mines of Gold Fields.