Solar to power Cannington mine

The Cannington silver and lead mine in north-west Queensland is in line for clean electricity, as South32 announced its plans to deploy a 3MW solar farm at the site.

The Perth-headquartered mining and metals company, which was spun out of mining giant BHP Billiton in 2015, said that the solar installation would be integrated into the current gas power station. 

It is scheduled to be built this year by Energy Developments Pty Limited (EDL) and SunSHIFT.

The 3MW solar farm will supply the mine’s accommodation village and airport, with the surplus electricity supporting the mining and processing operations at Cannington, thus offsetting gas consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 4,000 and 6,000 tonnes a year.

For Solar32, it is the first solar PV installation at a remote mining site, which it plans to use as a guide for similar projects at its other operations.

“Renewable costs have reduced significantly, so this is in line with our commitment to the environment and it also makes great economic sense,” said South32 Chief Sustainability Officer, Rowena Smith. “It’s an exciting time in the industry when renewable energy technology and innovation is applied to deliver power to our world-class remote mining operations.”

The company assesses that the cost to install and operate the solar farm will be offset by lower fuel costs, which makes it an economically viable solution for the operation.

Overall, this will be Australia’s second largest solar installation in a remote, off-grid mining operation and the first to hybridize a gas-fired power station.

The largest one to date is the DeGrussa project – a hybrid system at Sunfire’s copper and gold mine site in Western Australia, which comprises a 10.6 MW solar facility coupled with a 6 MWh battery facility – integrated with an existing diesel generator.

However, unlike DeGrussa, for the realization of which a $20.9 million recoupable grant came from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and $15 million in debt financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), the 3MW Cannington mine solar farm is independently funded by South32.