How to ensure efficiency in mining operations


Mining is not seen as a clean or environmentally friendly industrial practice. Yet large parts of the world are still likely to rely on fossil fuels for some time yet, including America. With nearly 50% of U.S. electricity generated from coal and uranium, many mining companies are seeking ways to make their operations less energy intensive.

Doing so can result in businesses making significant cost savings too – which is especially important when coinciding with stagnant commodity prices. Whatever the primary motivation, the time is now for mining companies to investigate their green energy options and take decisive action.

Below is a framework for improving efficiency in mining operations.    

Develop a strategic plan

As with most organisational objectives, having a thorough plan is essential for successfully reducing energy consumption. This plan should highlight a company’s long-term objectives while detailing actions and realistic targets in the short term that will help build towards it. 

In a similar manner to managing production and financial performance, having a strategy in place will allow companies to continuously monitor, analyse and fine-tune their energy use.

Choose an energy management system

With a clear plan for reducing energy in place, a mining company can then choose an energy management system that ties directly into its production systems and reports accurate data.

Information covered might include:

  • Real-time energy use
  • Energy use forecasting, to establish realistic targets for example
  • Reporting of over-consumption and any other changes
  • Identifying drivers of energy consumption
  • Analysing causes of over-consumption
  • Calculating key performance indicators such as kWh/t
  • Providing data that justifies process changes or technological investment

Investing in technology

Armed with a fit-for-purpose energy management system and an understanding of current energy consumption, the next step is to invest in efficient technologies to match.

Smart meters similar to those used in domestic households can deliver detailed information on energy use from key mine loads, including voltage, current, power frequency, power factor and more. Smart mining breakers can also assist in collecting rich, actionable data.

Other examples of potential upgrades include swapping slip ring motors for AC drives to power long conveyors, and using in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) instead of trucks.

Make continuous improvement

Making a plan and investing in technology means little without continuous monitoring and tweaking. This way companies will consistently improve system stability and reduce downtime, helping to allay commercial concerns around switching to new processes.

Monitoring these systems will also help mining companies to maintain a high level of power quality.

Mining has come a long way since its early days. While it may not be preferred in the long term, mining companies can reduce its impact in the here and now by taking the steps above to ensure energy efficiency. 

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