By Debajit Das, Aggreko regional director – APAC (Asia Pacific)
ASIA is playing a more important role in the global mining industry than ever before. Accounting for approximately 30% of the world’s total land mass, huge investments have been made in exploring the region’s untouched resource-rich areas and this level of activity is likely to escalate over the next decade as easily-accessible mineral deposits in other parts of the world become exhausted.
However, despite its status as a future growth engine, Asia’s mining landscape is fraught with uncertainty and presents fundamental problems. As they look to leverage the full scope of resources available, local and foreign mining exploration companies alike are forced to deal with ongoing talent, infrastructure and geographic issues that have significant cumulative impacts.
For example, a lack of skilled workers in developing markets – particularly when trying to replace an ageing workforce while having to match the rising global demand for resources – means that miners are relying on inexperienced and sometimes under-trained project teams, which can be more susceptible to instigating unnecessary financial loss through error. Inadequate road and living infrastructure in and around mining sites is also a factor.
Aggreko helps power this remote mine site with its temporary power solutions.
Compounding these difficulties are the continued power problems that the International Energy Agency predicts will see three-quarters of South East Asia’s economic potential squandered by 2035. With mines requiring a consistent power stream to ensure full production capacity and effective execution of the exploration lifecycle, this paradigm could have significant repercussions for the future of mining in the region.
With so many of Asia’s resource-rich areas located in very remote locations, power outage and inadequate supply are impacting the ability of companies to effectively explore and leverage the region’s high-quality resources. In combination with unpredictable weather conditions in monsoon-prone areas – circumstances beyond the control of miners – that often force projects to halt abruptly, explorers’ bottom lines and those countries in desperate need of fuelling their rising energy demand are being affected.
Indonesia is a prominent example of these geographic and power contexts at work. The country comprises 17,000 islands of which 7000 are uninhabited, making it particularly difficult to develop consistent grid infrastructure that serves large areas. From a resources perspective, the provinces of Sulawesi, Halmahera and Kalimantan in particular are home to large minerals deposits, but their lack of adequate power infrastructure is deterring companies from investing in projects there.
Without action amid these kinds of circumstances, inconsistent power supply could impact the region’s ability to maximize its resources potential, limiting the prospects of both individual areas and the companies operating within them. The region’s governments are therefore addressing power problems in their own way, increasing power generation efficiency and distribution infrastructures by modernizing power plants and employing smart grid technologies – all vital first steps.
However, permanent infrastructure-driven solutions take time and depend on the interplay of multiple factors, including substantial financial investment and the overcoming of regulatory frameworks that impede energy efficiency and access. They also do not necessarily solve all the issues of geographic remoteness, and in some cases can be highly impractical – especially when dealing with shorter-term mining projects with sites that may be abandoned after project completion.
Rather than waiting – and to ensure economic growth opportunities are not entirely missed – mining companies are taking matters into their own hands, employing alternatives such as temporary power to bridge the gap and better prepare for considerations around maintenance-induced downtime and increasing project size quickly and effectively. Temporary power and rental solutions have the ability to augment inconsistent power supply and inadequate grid capacity through a bespoke approach, ensuring that remote mining sites suffering from limited grid connectivity can implement effective, mobile power solutions with limited downtime.
Temporary power providers also provide mining companies with scale, knowledge and true insight. Highly-specialized solutions and equipment are designed, developed and built for rental-specific applications in the toughest environments on earth, with modular equipment performance-tested and quality-checked before deployment to sites. This ensures consistency of performance across all projects and geographies, and helps avoid commencement delays – a vital consideration in circumstances where supply contracts are already in place.
Therefore, as the focus shifts toward Asia fulfilling its resources potential, the mining sector’s future contribution to the region’s economy and growth will be under the spotlight. Governments will continue to make progress in delivering permanent, forward-looking solutions, but mining companies will need to carefully weigh all considerations when delving into complicated mining projects in remote areas, recognizing the circumstances in which targeted temporary power usage can ensure they continue to meet both their immediate and longer-term goals.