Mining giant BHP switches to renewable power for Chile operations

By Francis Jay

Company faces $780m hit as move follows criticism of its climate change stance

Anglo-Australian miner BHP is turning to renewable energy to power its copper operations in Chile, the world’s largest copper-producing nation. The company announced that the Escondida and Spence copper mines, which are currently coal-powered, will run off nothing but wind and solar power by the mid 2020s.

BHP – the world’s largest miner – says the move will lead to a $780 million (£600 million) provision in its next half-year results in December, thanks to costs associated with cancelling coal contracts.

It says both commercial and environmental considerations are driving the switch, and that transferring to renewables will pay off in the long run. Solar and wind power prices are dropping in Chile, where the share of renewable energy has tripled in five years.

Daniel Malchuk, head of BHP Americas, said. “From a commercial perspective, these contracts will deliver an estimated 20 per cent reduction in energy prices at Escondida and Spence operations.”

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The announcement comes at a time when BHP is under considerable pressure to change its stance on climate change. As we reported last week, one of BHP’s major shareholders is supporting a resolution at the company’s annual general meeting attacking it for climate change lobbying activities undertaken by industry associations where it is a member.

The switch to solar and wind power will displace 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2022 compared to fossil fuels, the equivalent of the annual emissions from 700,000 combustion-engine cars.

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