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First Quantum
The Ravensthorpe nickel operations. Image: First Quantum Minerals

In an effort to lower carbon emissions, the Ravensthorpe nickel mine on Western Australia’s south coast has switched to wind power.

The proposed installation will take advantage of the strong winds coming in from the Southern Ocean and will likely generate 18–20 megawatts, reducing the mine’s reliance on diesel generators.

First Quantum Minerals’ Perth-based regional manager of projects and operations Gavin Ashley described Ravensthorpe as a prime location for wind energy.

“We’re not connected to the grid,” he said.

“The way we produce power is from waste heat in steam turbines as we burn sulphur to generate the sulphuric acid, which we use in the nickel process.

“We also have stand-by diesel generators and recently we’ve identified that we’re short of power and we’re using our diesel generators a lot more, so that’s triggered this motivation to look at how we can offset that.”

First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian-based company, owns 70 per cent of the Ravensthorpe mine, with South Korean steelmaker POSCO holding 30 per cent.

Ashley said the company was part of a wider movement in the mining industry to embrace renewable energy.

“Five (turbines) is probably the most likely scenario … we’re just completing the study,” he said.

“We’re hoping to have that wrapped up in the next month, and then we’ll be looking at presenting to the board for approvals and funding.

“The ultimate timeline will depend on two real factors — the time it will take to do the various environmental and government approvals and the supply chain availability of turbines in the market.”

Ashley said the wind turbines should be operational by late 2024 or early 2025.