In a seminar held by the London Women in Mining Group, Samantha Hoe-Richardson, Head of Energy Strategy at Anglo American shed light on some of the challenges facing a major mining company in securing continuing energy supplies for its worldwide projects.Initially she touched on a specific problem which caused substantial disruption and lost production in South Africa, where the company has some of its most significant operations. The company has strategies in place to face any future problems with load shedding in South Africa following last year's problems in the country - where as operators it had been given three days notice of reduction in the supply resulting initially in the loss of one weeks production at its mining operations, and a continuing reduction in supplies thereafter.Anglo continues to lobby and work with government, Eskom - the South African state power supply company - and other planning groups to plan for future energy demands in the country. The national grid system should ideally have 20% headroom to secure supply and allow for unforeseen supply disruptions - Eskom currently only has 8%. As for expanding the grid Eskom now has only just enough to fund its operating costs.Energy represents 5 to 15% of a mining or metals company's costs - more in some cases - aluminium smelters for example. A platinum project requires 900 megawatts. Anglo reckons its power consumption needs will double in the next ten years. It has a large footprint in developing countries where the reserve margins are getting higher. Looking to Anglo's overseas needs, costs and supply provisions, Hoe-Richardson pointed out that Chile, for example, has had to import diesel where lack of rain has affected hydro projects and supply of gas from Argentina was interrupted. Whilst in Peru there is gas supply but no infrastructure to get it to the market. In Brazil, a hydro electric plant to power Anglo's Barro alto nickel project will be the country's third largest power supply facility.In North America, the Pebble copper project in Alaska will require its own energy source, while in Ireland, the Lisheen zinc project has installed its own wind farm, which provides electricity to 25,000 homes. In general though, coal remains the fuel of choice, as it is a more accessible and economical source of energy for power plants, but represents 40% of fossil fuel CO2 emissions. The challenge is to make it more sustainable. In Australia methane has been captured to use in power plants.Anglo American has set an efficiency target of a 15% reduction by 2011 and will review targets country by country including investing in new power plants where appropriate. By 2030 demand in electricity supply will double worldwide and US$13.6 trillion in infrastructure will be required to maintain this level in developed and developing countries. In alternative technology, the future use of fuel cell development in particular is being watched carefully - the use of PGM's in fuel cells is, of course, not of disinterest to Anglo American. The South African government is even planning a trial of fuel cells in homes.
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