March/April 2007

Putting a stop to energy waste

The Ontario Mining Association (OMA) and Ontario Power Authority have teamed up to give energy waste the slip, with the launch of the Sustainable Leak Prevention Program (SLPP) now underway at three northern Ontario mines. This project is to improve electricity efficiency and could result in hundreds of dollars of savings for mining companies and their operations, with spin-off applications to other industries in the province.

Ontario’s mining industry spends more than $500 million annually for energy, accounting for a range from 15 to 30 per cent of operating costs. Compressed air systems are one of the largest contributors to energy consumption. Even a small air leak in such a system can result in substantial electricity cost increases by causing compressors to overwork.

For example, a single hole equal to 1/8 inch in diameter wastes air at a rate of about 12 litres per second. Even at the low rate of 4 cents/KWh, this leak alone can waste over $1,000 per year - and it’s well known that most systems have a number of leaks. In fact, some plants report a leak rate equal to 20 per cent of total compressed air production capacity.

In the $532,000 SLPP project, the OMA will oversee audits of compressed air systems at the Williams mine in Hemlo near Marathon, CVRD Inco’s South mine in Sudbury, and FNX’s McCreedy West mine, also in Sudbury.

Funding for 41 per cent of the project comes from the OPA’s Conservation Fund, with the balance provided by the OMA and participating sites.

“Repairing compressed air leaks in the mine is a cost-effective way to increase energy efficiencies and to ensure ongoing low-cost nickel production,” said Dave Tomini, divisional energy coordinator, CVRD Inco. “This initiative is in line with our continuing efforts to build a sustainable future.”

Key finding of the audits will be presented to the OMA this March, with a final report submitted to OPA in May.

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