Geothermal Energy in Mining — A Renewable and Reliable Energy Solution

Author(s): K. Boynton, M. Berkley, S. Perkins, S. Albert-Green

Abstract

This paper presents the business case for utilizing geothermal potential to support mining operations with available and favorable geothermal conditions. Global factors are creating continuing energy and carbon challenges within the mining sector for which no single solution exists. Whether it is a remote or grid connected operation, the challenges facing mining companies include: high energy costs, volatile fossil fuel pricing, carbon pricing and energy security to name a few. The opportunity exists to develop new solutions to improve operations and economics, leading to more environmentally friendly, long-term solutions. Although the role geothermal plays in the utilities sector is well understood, the potential in mining has remained underdeveloped. Mining operations typically have large process heat and electrical demands, which are frequently supplied by isolated and expensive diesel/fuel oil systems involving their own cost, supply chain, and logistical challenges. In terms of risk and reward, it is well understood that the greatest risk involved with geothermal projects is in making capital investment and development time during exploration and drilling, with the reward of significant reductions in operating costs and carbon emissions. Those involved in the mining industry have a more analogous view of this risk profile than utility market players. It is proposed in this paper that there is an opportunity to seek solutions to provide mining operations with geothermal heat and power where it may not yet have been considered. An overview of mining operations and favorable geologies, as well as geothermal technologies and applications, similarities within the mining industry requirements and processes, and specific case studies are presented.