Renewable Energy Brings New Life to Old Mining Sites, Finds Rocky Mountain Institute

RMI’s Sunshine for Mines program develops new methodology for analyzing closed mine sites and identifying value from potential renewable energy development

Boulder, CO - November 14, 2017 - Today, Rocky Mountain Institute's (RMI) Sunshine for Mines program released new research titled "A Second Life for Legacy Mining Sites" which outlines new methodology for analyzing portfolios of closed and inactive mine sites for renewable energy development opportunities. The research concludes that legacy mine sites are strong candidates for generating revenue, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offering a sustainable energy solution for neighboring communities via renewable energy projects.

"The mining industry has a tremendous opportunity to improve its image and ensure business longevity through investments in renewable energy," said Ned Harvey, managing director at RMI. "These legacy sites are sunk costs which offer little additional value for mining firms. Our hypothesis is that renewables can create new value streams by turning traditional liabilities into productive assets, while simultaneously reducing companies' carbon footprint and building experience and confidence in the energy technologies that will power the 'mine of the future.'"

RMI's research highlights a core challenge in the mining sector: legacy sites are costly, burdensome assets that offer few options for value creation once the primary resource is exhausted. RMI calculates that renewable energy developments have the potential to produce a sustainable revenue stream, thereby transforming these sites from liabilities into assets for the controlling company.

Multinational mining company BHP recently engaged RMI to evaluate its North American portfolio of legacy sites for renewable development. Using this methodology, RMI identified significant potential for redevelopment and a clear subset of sites with a collective potential of over 500 megawatts consisting of primarily solar photovoltaic applications. Various storage technologies were also explored and, in some cases, recommended.

Sunshine for Mines focuses its work on developing research to promote sustainability solutions for the "mine of the future" and offers consultation and technical analysis at both the portfolio and mine site levels.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

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