Arcon-Sunmark along with Energia Llaima (Chile) agree to build and operate a solar thermal plant which would heat 80% of the water required for the EW process for the world’s largest copper mining company, Codelco. Mining processes are energy intensive in their operation. One of them is electro winning (EW), where it is required to heat water or electrolyte solutions in order to optimize the process and thus to obtain high quality cathodes.
The plant comprises a surface of 43,920 m2 of flat solar collectors (99% recyclable) and a 4,300 m3 tank for the storage of hot water, which permits the supply of energy 24 hours a day. These collectors are specially designed for the desertic environment in which they are located, with special seals for preventing the ingress of dust. Furthermore, the piping system is optimized with the purpose of minimizing installation time.
The solar heating solution is the perfect complement for the mining industry. Not only because it generates savings and replaces the use of fossil energy with clean energy – increasingly important in the world market – but also because it delivers more stable temperatures to the system, optimizing the EW process and thus a better product quality is obtained. The solar thermal energy supply contract has meant a significant saving in energy costs for Gabriela Mistral Division, furthermore permitting independence from price fluctuations of fuel and interruptions of its supply. The plant manager of this Division of Codelco, Nelson Salazar, points out, "Gabriela Mistral Division has endeavoured to be a benchmark in the mining industry and we work each day to reach and sustain it. Pampa Elvira Solar, the most powerful solar thermal plant in the world, is a proof of this".