Remote Mining Sites Must Pick Viable Power SolutionsWed, 10/21/2015 - 17:16
When searching for power solutions in the Mexican mining market, a range of companies shows up on the list. While some of them specialize in generation, others look to implement control and automation technology. There are thus few companies that can offer both of these services in an efficient and integrated manner. Chihuahua-based DnA Mining is one such supplier. This company represents a JV venture between Demek, a leader in the construction of electrical and mechanical systems, and Autronic, a company specialized in automation and instrumentation. “The range of widely applicable solutions that DnA provides for the mining industry and beyond includes products such as high tension electric systems, which can go as high as 115,000V, and control systems of up to 20,000V. We also manage high-voltage electrical grids, substations, transformers, low, medium and high-level distribution controls, and instrumentation,” says Rigoberto Rodríguez Mora, Director of Operations at DnA Mining. The company is also able to take care of the mechanical side of operations, which includes assembly, structural design, and maintenance. “We involve ourselves with our mining customers’ projects from the point when the mineral is first extracted right up until the fully processed product. During this process, we can offer services that include the setup of crushing equipment, mills, and the processing plants which use many common mining processes such as flotation or lixiviation,” Rodríguez Mora further explains. When DnA was founded in the early 1990s, it started out with individual projects in different industries to gauge the interest in its products. The company entered the mining industry 12 years ago, but it is only just beginning to get involved in joint projects with major engineering companies. “Once these start up, we will play a more active role in the design phase of mines,” affirms Rodríguez Mora.
To overcome the energy generation challenges of distant mining operations, DnA Mining offers two options to meet a project’s energy demands. One solution is the construction of photovoltaic energy systems for areas where it is economically viable to do so. The other solution that the company offers is the construction of a power line to connect the site to the grid, providing the user with continuous energy for at least 25 years. This latter solution must be implemented according to CFE’s standards, which does not leave a lot of space for innovation, since Mexico’s norms are already well-established. Additionally, the line only belongs to a company while it is within the limits of its own property. Once it is connected to the grid outside the property, it belongs to CFE, regardless of who makes the investment for the construction of the line. It is because of this large investment that DnA Mining makes sure such projects are carried out quickly and efficiently. “Our close collaboration with CFE and considerable knowledge of the respective norms are indispensable advantages during process,” states Rodríguez Mora.
With the passing of the Energy Reform, companies looking to increase their energy self-sufficiency can now build viable and competitive energy generation systems. “Some major mining companies like Grupo Mexico, who already generate their own electricity, divert their excess energy to CFE. They are then able to use energy from the CFE grid in other parts of Mexico as part of the Open Season program,” Rodríguez Mora clarifies. This scheme also helps to make solar energy more competitive. “As such, solar projects aim to reduce costs with the judicious application of technology. Nevertheless, if the price of solar energy does not continue to decrease, we will not be able to invest in it much further,” he adds. For the time being, this solution is most suited to projects in remote areas far away from the grid. The Open Season program has been encouraging companies to invest in wind farms, usually in Oaxaca, prior to the implementation of the Energy Reform. But even with the new legislation in place, the Director of Operations of DnA Mining says that the program should continue to be active. He adds that being part of programs like this means that projects can incorporate several energy solutions into their sites, making energy generation a safer bet for mining companies. The problem with initiating energy projects at mining sites though is that the lifespan of a mine is often limited. Therefore, Rodríguez Mora believes that the mining industry is unlikely to be one of the long-term beneficiaries of the Energy Reform.