Hydropower from mining processes

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A new hydropower approach that is being verified in Peru predicts significant potential

In the last months, solar and wind power are significant momentum in the mining sector. With a new approach, hydropower could experience a renaissance in mining. Using natural surface waters for powering mines is often problematic because either the potential has been leveraged or latent conflicts with local communities regarding suited locations for new hydropower plants are to be expected.

An innovative approach finds a secondary use for mine waters from various mining processes internally at mines. The advantage is that no additional water will be needed and adverse effects on the vicinity are completely avoided. The innovation could be applied at various locations of a mine site.

The hydroelectric potential of power plants that use natural waters is mainly determined by the discharge and the head. Water quality normally plays a neglectable role. This changes completely with this new solution that aims at making the best use of sediment-rich waters. The main challenge consists in mitigating wear on the turbine as much as possible.
The SmartH2OEnergy project has identified various locations at mining operations and is developing tailor-made turbine approaches to leverage the internal water potential. The research started back in summer 2019 and focused in the first stage on various simulations of theoretical scenarios. Recently, the COVID situation allowed for verifying the theoretical solutions for the first time on-site at mining operations in the Peruvian Andes.

Peru provides an ideal testing environment for the new approach as many mines are located in the Andes and guarantee in this mountainous environment sufficient heads. Energy prices are rather low, so the new approach is tested from the beginning under extremely competitive economic framework conditions.

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