Integrating Renewable Energy into Mining Operations: Opportunities, Challenges, and Enabling Approaches


Mining is one of the most energy-intensive industries worldwide. It also provides a critical source of raw materials for the manufacturing, transportation, construction, and energy sectors. Demand for raw materials is projected to increase as the world population grows and many low-income economies become middle-income countries. This growth in mineral demand, coupled with falling mineral ore grade, will likely increase the mining industry's energy demand, used for activities across exploration, extraction, beneficiation and processing, and refining. At the time of this writing, mine operations are -- due to their remoteness -- dependent on fossil fuels such as diesel, heavy oils, and coal. In principle, mining could use energy recovery, renewable energy, and carbon capture to supplement, replace, or mitigate the impacts of fossil fuel use. However, a combination of renewable-energy technologies would be required. We explore challenges, opportunities, and enabling approaches to integrate renewable energy technologies into mining operations by examining the literature, including academic work, technical reports, and data produced by international agencies. We find that despite numerous opportunities, technical issues still need to be considered, but solutions can tailor renewables to the mining industry. Further research should focus on identifying specific opportunities, technologies, and implementation strategies across the value chain of a variety of minerals with similar operational procedures.


Mining Engineering


This work was authored, in part, by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, United States, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding was provided by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA), United States .

Keywords and Phrases

Battery storage; Clean-energy technologies; Energy integration; Mining; Renewable energy

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

15 Oct 2021