When considering the concept of resourceful mining, as opposed to mining our resources, the overarching idea is to look at more efficient, environmentally sustainable, and profitable mining operations that are more beneficial to the wider community.By Lethabo Manamela The ultimate goal is to get the ‘people-planet-profit’ triad in the right ratio. Energy use has a prominent role to play here, especially considering that: a) energy in the form of electricity is an essential resource critical to a mine’s operation; b) mining is incredibly energy-intensive; and c) the industry plays a huge role in South Africa’s economy, and is a large source of employment opportunities for our people. Unfortunately, we have experienced that consistent energy supply has long been a challenge in South Africa. Our national grid regularly struggles to keep up with demand, and this has had far-reaching impacts on the economy and many industries, including mining. Installing backup power for mining operations is no small feat, and is very expensive. A mine’s energy requirements go far beyond the abilities of a UPS and diesel generator.
Mining operations in South Africa are unique, in that the turbulent energy landscape has driven our mining industries to be at the forefront of adopting energy-efficient technologies. This has been spurred largely by the high price of electricity in South Africa, and our unstable energy supply. Added to that, the local mining market is far removed from foreign markets. This means that the cost of transporting commodities is a pain point for our mines, so they need to keep other costs as low as possible.This article was first published in Inside Mining’s Resourceful Mining issue.