South32 is commissioning a new 7200-panel solar farm to help power its Cannington mine in north-west Queensland.
The project is among a raft of capital investments for the site this year, including a tailings dam extension and $28 million crusher installation.
Cannington vice-president operations Rob Jackson said he expected the new solar farm to be fully operational this month.
The 3MW solar farm, built over 6ha, will hybridise the gas power station and provide electricity for the mine’s accommodation village and airport, with any extra power going to mining and processing operations at Cannington.
Mr Jackson said South32 had used contractors already working with Cannington for the project including JR & LM Trackson, Dawsons Engineering, Rivet Mining Services, Burton Power, Elrose Plant Hire and Townsville fencing contractor DW and DN.
“A significant amount of the construction activities were undertaken by local people,” he said.
“On average we have had around 80 people working on the project.”
The project, delivered by Energy Developments and SunSHIFT, is the first solar installation at a South 32 operation.
Mr Jackson said South32 was committed to reducing its impact on the environment.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emission is a big part of that, so for South32 this solar installation is leading the way. Personally I’m hopeful that we will put in more of them across the business,” he said.
The solar farm was just one of the significant recent projects at Cannington, Mr Jackson said.
“Cannington is like most mines in that you have to continue to invest capital in the business to stay in business, and on top of that we have capital to stay competitive,” Mr Jackson said.
South32 is upgrading its accommodation village, with plans to spend about $2 million this year as part of a three-phase project, and updating some electrical infrastructure.
It completed the installation of a new crusher underground in the first half of this year, using Dawsons, Ashbar Constructions, Palminco, Engineering Industries and TEI as subcontractors.
“We also are in the process of building a tailings dam wall extension – a project involving about 100 people and using the earthmoving company QBirt,” Mr Jackson said.
The project involves the movement of 379,000 bank cubic meters of material and is expected to be finalised in the first quarter of 2019.
“This is part of our long-term life-of-mine plan,” Mr Jackson said. “We have three dams and we’re raising one at the moment.”
He said Cannington was also making a significant investment in fleet this financial year, purchasing a 2900 Caterpillar loader, a Volvo L20F wheel loader, two Minerunner utes, two drill rigs (Sandvik DD421 and Epiroc E7), and 13 light vehicles.
“It is all about ongoing investment to keep the mine running at an optimum level for Cannington’s mine life,” Mr Jackson said.
“We want to ensure that it’s in good shape and good condition and as competitive as it can be.
“A big part of that is investing capital to keep it fit and healthy – and that extends beyond structural and mechanical elements like the mill and the crusher to things like making sure we have reasonable camp facilities so people actually want to come and work for us.”
South32’s 2018 annual report indicated a reserve life of 13 years for the Cannington silver and lead mine.