Silver renewable lining to Abra’s rich new silver mining project in WA


Within months of exploration that confirmed the wider influence of its “best high-grade lead-silver drill-hole ever”, Abra Mining has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Contract Power Australia that will likely lead to construction and operation of a hybrid power plant at the Abra Base Metals Project between Newman and Meekathara in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia.

Subject to Abra Mining Proprietary Limited proceeding to final investment decision for the Project, Contract Power will build, own and operate the electricity-generation facility which is designed to combine a 6 MW solar array and 2 MW of battery energy storage with a 10 MW natural gas-fired power station and a 900 KI  LNG storage and regasification facility.

Galena Mining, which owns 77.28% of the joint-venture Abra Base Metals project, announced the agreement last week, with Managing Director Alex Molyneux saying that, “Integrating solar with relatively clean natural gas instead of diesel achieves a marked reduction in Abra’s carbon footprint compared to alternatives considered in the tender process.”

Importantly, Contract Power’s design for the power-generation plant “also offered the most cost-effective solution, in line with our feasibility study estimates”, said Molyneux.

The mine is expected to have a 16-year life, producing high-grade lead-silver concentrate, and the PPA is contracted for this period with an option to extend.

Based in Western Australia, Contract Power is wholly owned by Pacific Energy and specialises in design, construction and operation of remote power stations for the mining and government sectors.

Pacific Energy owns and operates a total of around 500 MW of generation capacity across some 40 power stations.

It is currently building the Fortescue Metals Group Solomon Power Station, using 15 Rolls Royce Bergen low-emissions, medium-speed gas generators, and in the past has largely concentrated on gas-fired generation.

However, Contract Power has also recently partnered with Western Australian utility Horizon Power on the Esperance Power Project, which combines a 4.4 MW central solar farm, with two 4.3 MW wind turbines, gas-powered generation, a 5.5 MW battery energy storage system, and high-efficiency gas generation. From 2022 the hybrid generator will provide up to 46% of the coastal community’s annual electricity needs from renewables.

On its website, Contract Power says, “ever increasing requests and desire for reduced running costs” in tandem with “regulation changes for sustainable power products” have led Contract Power to invest time and money on research, development and trialing of new hybrid systems.

In developing the power mix for Abra Base Metals Project, Contract Power’s Managing Director, Leon Hodges, said the company’s “combined LNG and renewables integration capability has allowed our design team to maximise solar penetration as high as the economics and technology allows, providing the Abra project with the highest reliability and lowest cost of power on an unsubsidised basis.” 

The Gascoyne region is already home to the Sandfire Resources DeGrussa copper mine, which exemplifies the benefits of hybridisation, such as savings on diesel fuel, reduction in emissions and reduced noise pollution from diesel generators. And Gold Fields’ Agnew Gold Mine, powered by wind, solar, battery and gas is also loosely in the ‘hood.

These desert flowers, all turning their faces to the sun, form the vanguard of the next wave of renewables to sweep the country.


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