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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Exploring alternative energy options for mine sites

Dec 13, 2011

How can the potential negative legacy of a mine site be converted into a positive inheritance for the wider environment and local communities? Peter Whitbread-Abrutat and Nick Coppin report

Recent imaginative alternative energy projects give good grounds for confidence that many former mine sites can be ideal locations for developing alternative energy generation facilities - simply by looking in a new light at some of the properties that made them problematic in the first place.

Possibilities range from wind, solar photovoltaics, geothermal power or heating, energy crops and mine methane to bioreactor landfills, hydropower and test-beds for a variety of more experimental power generation technologies.

As with any development, mine site conversion to alternative energy generation must of course take due account of impacts on the local environment and communities. But done well, these can provide extra economic value from the site during the mining operational phase as well as ongoing value after operations have ceased in the form of an alternative income stream over the long term.

Specific benefits can include the mitigation of clean-up costs, re-using infrastructure to reduce decommissioning cost, enabling re-employment of a skilled mining workforce and/or new local employment opportunities, and a clean and usually quiet after-use for a mine site that can also create a potential source of carbon credits with tradable value. The total carbon footprint of the site can be significantly reduced, as well as providing clean energy for society and helping towards climate change objectives.

So why might mine sites prove to be ideal locations for the generation of alternative energy?
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