Solar Replaces Diesel To Power The Milpillas Copper Mine

Danish firm Arcon-Sunmark has delivered the largest solar thermal plant in North America as a turnkey project to supply power to the Milpillas copper mine belonging to Industrias Peñoles, in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora.

The use of solar energy will replace the burning of diesel in boilers, reducing the mine’s emissions by around 3,000t of CO2 per year. Added to this, the plant will offer considerable cost reductions for Peñoles.

With a collector area of 6,270m2 and total capacity of 8,600MWh/y, it is the mining company’s first large-scale solar heating system and is the cheapest option for the mining industry. Arcon-Sunmark developed the Pampa Elvira Solar facility, one of the world’s largest solar heating systems, for Chilean state copper miner Codelco. Given its location in one of Mexico’s sunniest states, the plant will have a solar yield three times higher than a similar facility in Denmark.

The Milpillas mine entered production in 2006 when Peñoles said it was expected to churn out 56,000t/y of copper cathodes.

A global reference in renewable energy use

The DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine is aiming to become a world-leading reference site for the use of renewable energy in the mining industry following the construction of a 10.6MW solar power station which will be fully operational in 2016. Sandfire is participating in this state-of-the-art project – which will be the largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility in Australia – as part of an extensive international consortium which has been formed to finance, develop, operate and own the facility.

The project is intended to be a world-leading example that increases confidence and drives further advancements in the use of renewable energy at mine sites. The knowledge sharing plan aims to:

  • Release operational performance data summaries to assist mining companies to evaluate the risks of high penetration renewable energy integration into diesel power plants;
  • Illustrate the potential diesel and cost savings achievable by renewable energy in a mining setting;
  • Analyse the cost curve and key events that could enable high penetration solar PV opportunities to be economically deployed in Australia without subsidies.

This will help drive down first-of-a-kind costs and change perceptions about the risks associated with high penetration and critical load off-grid projects.

“The DeGrussa Solar Power Project has the potential to reduce the mine’s diesel consumption and is consistent with our relentless focus on driving down costs.”

Sandfire Managing Director, Karl Simich