Aussie ABC: “A renewable energy revolution is powering Australia’s $720bn mining and resources industry”

Except when it isn’t: “fossil fuels — particularly gas — would still be needed at many remote resources projects for some time yet.”

A renewable energy revolution is powering Australia’s $720bn mining and resources industry

ABC Rural / By Daniel Mercer and Tom Edwards

On a remote mine site in the desert of central Western Australia, the winds of change are blowing.

Along with a solar farm and a battery, five giant wind turbines are powering much of the operations at the Agnew gold project, about 1,000 kilometres north-east of Perth.

It is the first resources project anywhere in Australia to have a wind farm, but it is unlikely to be the last.

What’s more, the mix of renewable energy sources to increasingly meet the needs of mines such as Agnew is set to be replicated across the country.

“It’s been great,” says Stuart Mathews, the executive vice president of Gold Fields, the South African company which owns the Agnew project.

Despite the bullish outlook, Mr Harman cautioned that fossil fuels — particularly gas — would still be needed at many remote resources projects for some time yet.

He noted that most mines ran around the clock, meaning they required uninterrupted power supplies.

And while renewable energy was capable of meeting many of those needs, he said fossil fuels would be needed to fill in the gaps until green technology caught up.

“The real challenge is the scale of storage,” Mr Harman said.

“You have to have back-up available when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing.

“The capital you would have to put in to have renewables available all the time is just too high.

“So, storage is key.”

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I suspect this rush to embrace green mining is more aspirational than practical.

It makes sense in some remote locations to use renewable energy. I’ve used solar power in the past, to operate remote sensor devices which were inconveniently distant from a power point. So maybe the solar panels will save a little natural gas or diesel or whatever consumable the mine site uses for power.

But the sheer magnitude of the energy needs of mines makes this a little difficult to take seriously. Maybe the PR value outweighs the cost. But I strongly suspect the value to the bottom line value of mine adjacent renewables in terms of the profitability of the mining operations will be marginal at best.

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Gregory Woods
November 15, 2021 2:09 pm

Hope triumphs over common sense…

Willem Post
Reply to  Gregory Woods
November 15, 2021 2:29 pm

PR releases Trump all

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Gregory Woods
November 15, 2021 3:15 pm

Because what you want when you are deep in a mine is to have all the power go out when the wind stops blowing🤪

Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
November 15, 2021 5:25 pm

Lights out when the wind blows below viable and above tolerable limits. Suitable for social causes and activities where reliable power does not matter.

Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
November 15, 2021 9:48 pm

But if you are a political prisoner who has been sent down the mines by our new green left rulers, who cares? They can find more. Sure, they miss out on the organs harvesting but no business is 100% efficient.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
November 16, 2021 12:56 am

That is a terrifying thought! Mines are unbelievably dark when the lights go out. But along with the lights would go the air circulation and pumps, stale air and flooded tunnels, what jolly fun! Don’t leave the surface without your headlamp and life support….

November 15, 2021 2:12 pm

“So, storage is key.”
Indeed! and how much will that cost?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mike
November 15, 2021 2:49 pm

Too much, is the correct answer. It will be the death of unreliables.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Mike
November 15, 2021 3:39 pm

See comment below. The storage does not do what the article implies it does. Nope.

November 15, 2021 2:18 pm

Awesome Eric..

November 15, 2021 2:26 pm

Intermittent energy, a Green blight, and rape the land to recover diverse but disparate resources. Not quite the wicked solution, for what is clearly a problem constructed by social progress with green motives.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  n.n
November 15, 2021 3:58 pm

Agreed. The “Green Revolution” will be the great wasting of the world’s economically viable Li deposits. All to prevent an imaginary disaster that ironically would be mankind’s salvation from the return to glacial conditions if it were true.

J Mac
November 15, 2021 2:30 pm

This would seem to be a unique location, highly favorable to wind/solar generation. Love the immediate claim that the whole “720bn dollar mining industry is being revolutionized” by this!

Reply to  J Mac
November 15, 2021 2:46 pm

Revolutionized … you mean like the Russian Revolution? Not all revolutions are desirable.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  J Mac
November 15, 2021 2:52 pm

There are plenty of places in the outback, where most mines are, that have very little cloud cover and will benefit from solar. They typically work 24/7,so obviously need additional power, and they’ll use fossil fuels. The savings will probably be slight, but subsidies will help make it viable for a while.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
November 15, 2021 3:06 pm

but subsidies will help make it viable

No, subsides do not help make anything viable.
Subsidies do one thing, and one thing only.
Subsidies clobber the poor taxpayer who gets no say in the matter and derives no benefit from the expenditure.
For the person getting the subsidy, the money is pure profit straight to the bottom line, with positive press and virtue signalling thrown in as a bonus.
If these renewable energy schemes had any value at all, even at the margins, they would exist without subsidies. The truth of the matter is that whenever subsidies and tax credits are withdrawn, sales of these renewable installations collapses.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
November 15, 2021 3:17 pm

“subsidies will make it viable”

Until they run out of other-people’s-money.

Reply to  J Mac
November 15, 2021 4:42 pm

Revolutionized in the sense that normally they would need to string hundreds of miles of electrical transmission lines, through wilderness areas, to get to a remote ore rich region. And that is often prohibitively expensive, thus putting the deposit out of reach until the necessary infrastructure materializes.

However, with GREEN MINING, this obstacle in now removed, this opening up vast new tracts of land to these companies. And this time the mines will be “environmentally friendly”. (lol)

John in Oz
Reply to  Anon
November 15, 2021 6:32 pm

need to string hundreds of miles of electrical transmission lines

Not if you have a diesel generator or two. Cheaper as well rather than despoil several acres of land for solar panels and wind generator clearances plus roads to build and service same plus transmission lines to connect it all.

Reply to  John in Oz
November 17, 2021 9:55 am

That simple solution has not seemed to occur to the mining industry:

Unlocking Northern Resource Potential – The Role of Infrastructure

One of the challenges facing the mineral industry in Canada is that much of the northern part of the country has very limited infrastructure—in particular roads, rail, ports and power. The associated higher capital and operating costs are major constraint to mining and economic development in these areas.


Because mining often requires the building of power generating infrastructure, which is often fossil fuel dependent, they will do better with the investor class if they include green energy:

Infrastructure ecosystems in mining

The way we establish infrastructure in emerging economies will increasingly dictate project approval

A large proportion of mines are located in remote areas, often not having access to grid electricity, which has meant that building power-generation capacity is a key part of the infrastructure component. Most of these mines will use carbon-based fuel to power their plants, exposing the power plant to the volatility of commodity pricing, as well as increasing the environmental impact associated with carbon emission.

So, you have 2 benefits, one is an independent power source and the other is the “green washing” aspect with the promise of sustainable mining.

Zig Zag Wanderer
November 15, 2021 2:48 pm

The capital you would have to put in to have renewables available all the time is just too high.

This is the money shot. The world will soon wake up to this undeniable and unavoidable fact. Unreliables will be crushed.

Iain Russell
November 15, 2021 2:49 pm

Just been chuckling at the snow covered solar panels in Victoria and Tasmania – in the middle of November! And gosh those birdkillers aren’t twirling in China again. What’s a gel to think?

November 15, 2021 2:53 pm

Just a PR move. Try to keep the wolves at bay. More and more push to divest from these “horrible” industries.

The green blight is here to stay.

Reply to  chickenhawk
November 15, 2021 5:33 pm

Of course its a PR move. Mining is one of the most ecologically damaging industries there is – especially gold mining using cyanide in the processing. Its a good thing for this company that it is in the boondocks.
It helps that the company can virtue signal using taxpayer money to subsidize the PR move.
I wonder if they are required to restore the land after they’re done mining like other countries require.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
November 16, 2021 5:18 am

our epa recovery of mined land regs are damned tough they DO restore and they are required to prove and hold fundsn beforehand

November 15, 2021 3:03 pm

Along with a solar farm and a battery, five giant wind turbines are powering much of the operations at the Agnew gold project, about 1,000 kilometres north-east of Perth.”

Sounds extremely expensive.
What does a giant wind turbine cost? Over a million $ each?
Maintenance costs will not be cheap.

Local bird and bat llfe will suffer. Their carcasses will attract vermin and predators.

Savings are unlikely. Just the capital costs will take years to pay back, if ever.

They could’ve bought a fossil fueled generator and gotten dependable consistent quality 24/7 energy.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  ATheoK
November 15, 2021 3:41 pm

Western Australia is probably the best place in Australia for wind energy. In places, trees grow sideways due to the constant wind.

The outback is probably one of the best places in the Australia for solar. Cloud cover is rare in many places.

There are plenty of remote mines in these locations. The rest of Australia, unreliables are not going to cut it.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
November 15, 2021 5:18 pm

Remote outback mines and cattle stations have been using solar & wind for decades to charge up their huge arrays of lead acid battery banks and supplement their huge reliable diesel generators which are what they ultimately rely on for on-demand electric power.

Diesel is expensive to transport to such remote locations, so any chance they have to reduce the cost is taken.

Plus, during the big wet monsoon seasons, you wouldn’t bank on having strong sunlight to produce solar charging or winds moderate enough that you don’t have to shut down your wind blades.

Diesel generators will have to do the job.

(Just like they do for Sth Aust’s and Vic’s power grids, but curiously the govts don’t say much about this)

Reply to  Mr.
November 15, 2021 6:35 pm

New travellers to “Outback Australia” are surprised when they see road trains consisting of a Diesel engine prime mover or tractor truck and up to four fuel tanker trailers behind for mines, roadhouses, pastoral properties and other users to refuel vehicles, machinery and generators.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Mr.
November 15, 2021 9:25 pm

Diesel is expensive to transport to such remote locations, so any chance they have to reduce the cost is taken.


Solar and/or wind is simply to give the generators a bit of a break. I know of solar plans in the middle of nowhere. They are mainly publicity and/or experimental. They may be adding solar, but they are not decommissioning any of the diesel generators.

another ian
Reply to  Mr.
November 16, 2021 12:26 am

Adding to Mr

I have run the experience starting from Tilley and other kerosene lights, brooms, mops and knees, wash tubs, hand wringers and coppers (wood fired wash boilers) , wood fired kitchen stoves which did provide hot water on demand – and the wood cutting.

The next big step was 32 volt electricity via a generator and battery bank. You needed the generator to assist with the household appliances that helped previous toil . And learned that battery banks were not low maintenance and were expensive. We didn’t get to a Dunlite wind charger.

And then, in the mid 1970s rural power arrived via the SWER (single wire earth return) system – thankfully!

The next time I met those Dunlite wind chargers was in Colorado in the mid-1970s. Attached to the saying that “This year’s ecofadist is the person who bought their mountain cabin last year”.

Our launch into solar was hot water – no lack of sunshine here. The pay-off was about 20 years. Tank on the first one lasted about 7. We ran the second on rain water when possible and it lasted about the same. “Theoretically sound but practically imperfect”. Replaced by a Rinnai gas on demand – plumber that installed it knew of only a couple of solars left in the district.

One of the ranch level limitations to such as described by a friend who did that and then moved to a city based business. On reviewing his summation was “I never realised how much time in the bush you spent looking after yourself”. Qualified fixers even more problem for the bigger operations in the outback.

Re “ cattle stations have been using solar & wind for decades to charge up their huge arrays of lead acid battery banks and supplement their huge reliable diesel generators which are what they ultimately rely on for on-demand electric power. “

I have some contact with some of those cattle stations and I haven’t seen a lead acid battery outside of a vehicle there. One had a 60 KVA set that ran 24/7 with a 40 KVA back-up. With BIG fuel tanks just because of where they are.

And for solar electricity – don’t forget the bodacious dust of inland Oz and that it is semi- to arid. And the labour to keep them clean.

I also notice that “working” seems to be flexible of definition. There is the one in the euphoria of new installation. And then there is the one of, say 10 years later, if it is still doing what it was supposed to.

And I read recently that the third world uses about as much kerosene for light, heat and cooking as the US does jet fuel a year You can still buy a Tilley light. No doubt “fossil free” is going down a treat there.

Reply to  another ian
November 16, 2021 5:22 am

made me grin yup i HAVE 2 tilleys and spare mantles still in the box remember the dunlite flow n ebb and also remember the genny going off at 10-pm and the slooow dying of the light
candles and kero lamps if you needed light to go to the outhouse longdrop after that;-)

Rud Istvan
November 15, 2021 3:35 pm

I researched this before commenting. The Agnew mine is fairly ‘small’, producing about 195,000 oz of gold/year with 140 employees. It is both a newer open pit and older underground workings, and from recent images ALL that mining machinery is diesel powered. Classic big open pit mine trucks.

The gold is recovered from crushed ore using a CIP process cyanide leaching plant. This is where the ‘renewable’ electricity is consumed. The EDL owned ‘hybrid Agnew microgrid’ comprises 4 MW solar (good for a CF of maybe 25% or 1MW per day), 17MW of wind (at a CF of maybe 30% so about 5MW), plus a 4MWh battery farm.

Why the battery farm? Needed to bridge to night/no wind backup using 21MW of Agnew diesel generation, which is what Agnew used before the new renewable boondoggle was completed in 2020. The CIP plant cannot go down; bad for gold.

Why this EDL renewable boondoggle? Because EDL got $13.5 million cash up front from Aus ARENA to fund it. Use other people’s money (Aus taxpayers) whenever possible for boondoggles. Remember Solyndra and Ivanpah.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 15, 2021 5:34 pm

Once again, a Hat tip to Rud Istvan.
Help me see if I read this correctly.

The mine produces 195,000 oz gold/year.
The government gave them $13.5 million.
Because Environmental, Sustainable.
They give taxpayer money to a gold mine.

Old Cocky
Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 16, 2021 1:16 pm

This was on the ABC news on the wireless earlier this week, with a few additional details. Apparently the diesel generators are being replaced by gas, I assume OCGT.

The mine manager claimed that the costs were slightly lower than the previous diesel generators. There seems to be some arrangement with EDL where the mine gets to own the equipment at some point, after which the expectation is that costs will drop.
They did seem to have done their homework.

The $13.5m wasn’t mentioned, but would certainly be attractive.

Chris Hanley
November 15, 2021 4:43 pm

A renewable energy revolution is powering Australia’s $720bn mining and resources industry …

Headline: Tail Wags Dog.
“Clean energy demand for critical minerals set to soar as the world pursues net zero goals” (IEA 5 May 2021).

November 15, 2021 4:56 pm

And of course they are only talking about the electricity generation. It’s somewhat difficult to run haulpacks underground on wind and solar, not to mention the hundreds of other vehicles.

I lived in Agnew 40 years ago before the federal Labor government invented FIFO

November 15, 2021 5:02 pm

Australia needs to try a thorium Molten Salts Reactor…that’s all.

Reply to  Anti-griff
November 15, 2021 6:39 pm

Recently the Federal Government of Australia joined with the UK Government with an expression of interest in Rolls Royce development of modular nuclear generators.

And apparently the UK is already designing a new nuclear submarine class for the RN and RAN.

Reply to  Anti-griff
November 15, 2021 10:19 pm

China is reportedly ready to test their first — 2MW capacity if I remember correctly. I believe they hope to start production of larger reactors in 2030. This is a better time table than fusion but may work out much the same way.

Geoff Sherrington
November 15, 2021 5:16 pm

Personally, I was involved in the discovery and development of several Australian mines. We (the company) repeatedly investigated and rejected both solar and wind powered electricity for all but minor applications.
We built and/or operated some smelters for sulphide ores. Solar and wind were not even considered as ways to power them
The reasons for the elimination of solar and wind that applied then, apply today.
I cannot comprehend the silliness or lack of engineering expertise displayed by those miners who find otherwise. The sad conclusion is that there must be a monetary incentive, like a subsidy, at play.
Subsidies are a major evil and barrier to the operation of the proven free enterprise style. Free enterprise has shown its excellence over and over. Why junk it?

Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
November 15, 2021 5:27 pm

Would still have a grid connection, so have nothing to lose

Reply to  Duker
November 15, 2021 7:05 pm

Most mines, especially around Agnew don’t have a grid conection

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Duker
November 15, 2021 7:34 pm

You seem not to know Australia.
Grid connections were several hundred miles away to over a thousand miles jfor some of my examples. No prior habitation at some – the later towns were built only because we found the mines and installed generators for the towns.
The almost universal driver of these remote electricity generators was diesel. It has a great deal of energy in a small volume, if I can put it that way. Geoff S

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
November 15, 2021 8:24 pm

Travel across the canadian far north and what you see in every community is diesel gensets of a common size for ease of maintenance by the utilities, the size of the town determines how many of those are present.
No grid whatsoever just small islands of power and civilization and vast stretches of nothing.

I always laugh when I see some politician from up there blathering about climate change and net zero.

Cut off the diesel and within 12 hours the canadian government would have to start an airlift evacuation of the entire north to avoid mass death.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
November 16, 2021 4:00 pm

Several enjoyable visits to Canada took Colleen and me to places like Key Lake, Lake Athabaska, Uranium City and also through the Canadian Rockies. Yes, there are similarities in the remote geography of Canada & Australia, with a temperature difference of a few degrees.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
November 15, 2021 7:00 pm

Warren Buffett belled this cat –
“without the taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks, renewables make no sense”

Reply to  Mr.
November 15, 2021 8:43 pm

Which is why the renewables industry activists attempt to avoid criticism by claiming that mining companies receive subsidies, specifically coal miners. Not in Australia, of course all businesses have the right to minimise tax liability by claiming expenses incurred in earning taxable profits, and where liquid fossil fuel is used for off-road applications an excise or tax rebate can be applied for as the levy is for roads maintenance purposes.

However wind and solar or any business can apply for legal tax deductions, but the so called renewables business subsidy is a seperate matter applicable only to renewable energy sources.

November 15, 2021 5:42 pm

Oh, another revolution by their ABC! Champagne and caviar revolutionaries

Tony Taylor
November 15, 2021 6:47 pm

It’s standard operating procedure among renewable energy shills to claim their businesses, suburbs, towns, cities, whatever, are supplied by 100% renewable sources if, on just one day out of a billing period, solar, wind, hydro and of course carbon offsets contribute 100% of the supply. It doesn’t matter to them if the rest of the time they are drawing upwards of 70% from the national grid with its coal, gas and diesel. If accountants were allowed to be so imaginative with numbers, none of us would pay tax, or we’d pay tax with carbon offsets.

Reply to  Tony Taylor
November 15, 2021 8:48 pm

On the weekend a builder from Sydney told me that in high value real estate suburbs many clients are willing to pay for carbon offsets so that they can brag that their home construction project is carbon neutral.

Well not really, but they have paid for their sins, they seem to believe.

The tipping point result of the climate hoax creatively accounted for warming slowed down?

Reply to  Tony Taylor
November 16, 2021 11:59 am

You mean if, for just one minute of a billing period…

November 16, 2021 12:53 am

I suspect this rush to embrace green mining is more aspirational than practical.

The Chileans have been doing it for years…

Alan M
Reply to  griff
November 16, 2021 3:23 am

Evidence or examples and of course how

Reply to  griff
November 16, 2021 4:20 am

Griff, mate, Chiles mining is green after it leaves the ground – mostly because they a lot of copper

🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣

Dave Andrews
Reply to  griff
November 16, 2021 9:08 am

Not everybody has the driest desert receiving more solar radiation than almost anywhere else on Earth (Atacama) and the Pacific Ocean and The Andes for wind in their backyard.

November 16, 2021 3:36 am

Once again for the mental midgets on the political left, the only renewable energy sources are coal, oil, gas, hydro and nuclear. All else is crap wrapped in lies.

November 16, 2021 4:01 am

Come back to us when you start using electric vehicles to mine and transport at the mines.

November 16, 2021 5:15 am

the solar and batteries would be lucky to run the aircon and lunchroom Id say
takes a LOT of power to run crushers and conveyors and pumps etc

Bob Hunter
November 16, 2021 7:52 am

Here in Canada the Federal Govt is shutting down Oil & Thermal Coal production on the Prairies. However, open pit gold mining (92% of Gold is used for jewellery & finance) projects are still being approved in BC, Ont & Que. Any guess which areas vote Liberal & which vote Conservative.

James Bull
November 16, 2021 8:50 am

So having your main power source running in the background so you can claim green brownie points for using ‘renewables’ is good in some way?

James Bull

November 16, 2021 10:15 am

“The capital you would have to put in to have renewables available all the time is just too high. So, storage is key.”

What about the capital you would have to put in to have enough storage to make it viable?

Robert Hanson
Reply to  TonyG
November 16, 2021 1:06 pm

Other than hydro, which works almost nowhere, here is no storage technology in existence that works for more than a few hours.

November 16, 2021 7:35 pm

The real challenge is the scale of storage

It sure is but what the crony capitalists do is invest in fixed lithium batteries for high short run profits (10 years note) providing FCAS to milk the problem the unreliables created in the first place. Meanwhile that kills the true economics of long term storage scale required to see off gas peaking plants-
One pumped hydro project still standing as South Australia heads to 100pct wind and solar | RenewEconomy 
The climate changers are simply too dumb economically to recognize their blunder wasting scarce light weight lithium battery resources they believe will displace the ICE. Lithium carbonate prices are already rising for the first time in the gigafactory EV battery era. Duh!

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