Generally, the mining industry relies on diesel fuel. Diesel fuel can be shipped through supply lines, which are thousands of kilometers long. Another way for it to be shipped is to have it flown in; however, that essentially burns more energy via shipping.
More Than One Power Source Needed
Diavik Diamond Mining, from 2001 to 2012, was relying solely on diesel to generate power for their arctic mine. It cost approximately 70 million dollars every year for 50 million liters of diesel, which had to be delivered over an ice road. In 2006, they experienced a problem with the delivery of their diesel fuel. The ice road was constructed late, melted too early and never reached the weight capacity necessary. That year, Diavik had to have several million liters of fuel flown in. This showed the company that having one source for fuel was not ideal. It was time to search out alternative energy sources.
Alternative Energy Options for Mines
Solar power was not an option, because the location does not get enough sun. They decided to do some meteorological tests with a tower to see if using wind turbines was an option. They determined it was realistic. They found that a wind farm with four wind turbines would supply 10% of the mine’s energy. However, the turbines had to be ramped up to deal with the mine location’s harsh weather. Each wind turbine at this mine is 100 meters high with three 33 meter epoxy-resin blades. The blades were specially designed with de-icing technology, so they can take on temperatures as cold as negative 40 degrees Celsius. These blades created a new way to naturally generate power in very cold climates.
Wind Turbines Supply Energy to Mines
This wind farm generated 8.5% of the mine’s power in 2013 and 11.2% of the mine’s power the first quarter of 2014. Last year, this saved the company 5 million dollars in diesel fuel, which is 3.8 million liters. Additionally, this reduced the load on the ice road by about 75 loads. The 31 million dollar Diavik Diamond Mining Company invested in the turbine farm will pay for itself in eight years.
They were able to use the power generated by the wind turbines starting in September of 2012. Some adjustments did have to be made due to the extreme weather. The defrosting technology needed an adjustment after the blades started to get a buildup of frost on them. This was replaced and the base of the tower and the nacelle were both retrofitted with heaters to keep the frost away.
The amazing thing here is that Diavik Diamond Mining did all of the assembly themselves. They learned everything they needed to know to put the wind farm together and to maintain it. That is an advantage for them, because if anything goes wrong, such as frost building up on the blades of the turbines, they can fix the problem themselves.