Day 2 - 9.00 - Stream 4 - Mining, Critical Minerals & Energy | Breaking down barriers for energy transition in mining
How the energy sector supports the mining and minerals industry represented a key strand of discussions on day two of aef 2023.
With around 30% of the world’s mineral wealth stored in the continent, Africa is blessed with a booming mining trade that is an essential pillar of its ongoing socioeconomic development. Now, the focus is on taking advantage of this resource wealth in a way that is responsible and sustainable.
As a significant consumer of power and emitter of greenhouse gases, the African mining sector is seeking smarter ways to incorporate cleaner energy solutions into operations, without compromising reliability and economic viability. As the region continues its drive to become a flagbearer of energy transition and a low/no carbon economy, successfully embedding sustainable power into the mining industry constitutes an important part of this journey.
How the transition can be achieved became a core focus of the discussion, with panellists giving their views on the challenges to accelerating the incorporation of clean energy into mining and how these barriers may be overcome.
Breakthroughs in key technologies supporting storage and transmission were highlighted as crucial facilitator. For example, the solutions exist to support viable off-grid setups, including highly sophisticated battery cells, but financing the implementation of such solutions remains a sizeable barrier.
This led into another important strand of the boardroom session, which centred around finance and costings, including the challenges associated with power purchase agreement (PPA) limits – here, different types of models were discussed, as well as how appetite for risk around onboarding assets influences these financial agreements. Attracting foreign direct investment to support the development of local power generation using local energy resources was then also cited as key to unlocking progress towards a more sustainable regional mining industry.
However, the development of reliable renewable energy supplies was unanimously identified by all the panellists as a long-term means to overcome the historic issue of supply reliability to mines, as well as current challenges associated with volatile and spiralling energy costs.
A question from the floor picked up on this, with one attendee asking why the uptake of renewable power has been slow given the obvious cost and environmental benefits that were highlighted earlier in the session. Once again, issues around financial feasibility and accessing capital were raised, along with a lack of awareness of the modern technologies available on the market and how they can add viability to these projects.
Wrapping up the debate, the panel also touched on how the mining sector can introduce smarter ways of operating to boost energy efficiency and reduce consumption, another crucial element of the journey towards decarbonisation and overcoming cost pressures.