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Energy and Mines is an international organisation formed in 2014 to assist the global mining sector looking to diversify their energy mix with solar power and other forms of renewable energy.
The organisation is touting Australia as a “global centre for renewables for mines”.  This year they are sponsoring its second annual Energy and Mines Australia Summit featuring presentations from both experts in solar power, battery storage, and other forms of renewable energy as well as mining company staff announcing planned moves to solar and renewables.  Presenters represent a broad spectrum of mining companies, including BHP Billiton (BHP), Sandfire Resources (SFR), Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), Rio Tinto (RIO), South32 S32), Nyrstar, Oz Minerals (OZL), Australian Vanadium (AVL), Panoramic Resources, Montezuma Mining Company (MZM), Resolute Mining (RSG), and Gold Fields.
While there is an acknowledged social benefit to these moves, the key driver is not public good will nor the environment, but economics.  Brisbane based juwi Renewable Energy Pty Ltd (juwi) is the Australian operation of global renewable energy engineering and construction firm, juwi Holding Group, based in Germany.  The company claims miners could save upwards of 75% on mine energy costs.  The cost of solar modules is falling rapidly, between 3% and 8% per year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance points to price drops in commercial battery storage of solar power as well, priced today at around USD$73 per kilowatt hour (kWh) compared to USD$250 in 2017.
The ASX boasts two completed projects – the DeGrussa Solar Project currently powering Sandfire Resources (SFR) DeGrussa Copper mine; and Rio Tinto’s (RIO) solar project at its Weipa bauxite mine.  
Both projects were backed by ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and constructed by private firms, selling output to the mining companies.  Results are positive, with the DeGrussa project saving Sandfire from the purchase of 450,000 litres of diesel every month.  Over the five and a half years of its purchase agreement with the operator, Sandfire will cut more than 25 million litres of diesel from its traditional generating stations.  
The Weipa Project was the first of its kind in the world, going online in September of 2015.  The first stage of two developments is offsetting up to 600,000 litres of diesel per year during daytime hours Rio would need to purchase for traditional power generation. Rio has a 15-year purchase power agreement (PPA) in place with the project operator.
In addition to the two operational projects, there are four mining companies with projects underway.  Some skeptical investors may view the cost savings as too minimal to make a compelling investment case for these stocks.  
Recent history provides ample evidence of the power of lowering mining costs through any means.  Rabid investors in the mining sector cheered in the boom days as miner after miner, intoxicated with the lofty prices of their commodity, spent like drunken sailors, acquiring seemingly any acreage with the remotest hint of something of value on the property.  The future development costs of those purchases posed no problem, as long as commodity prices continued to soar.
Those same rabid investors watched in horror as company after company began to shed those exploration assets, often at a loss, as commodities across the board collapsed, led by iron ore.  The next step was cutting costs ruthlessly to allow the miners to remain profitable in the face of lower prices.  
Today investors in the sector are as interested in sustainable operating costs as they are in growth estimates.  
Here then are the six early-mover ASX listed stocks betting on the long-term cost efficiencies of renewable energy sources.

Rio Tinto’s turnaround strategy as the price of iron ore began to drop included the bold move of exiting its coal operations completely, with the final assets sold off in the last week of March of this year, netting $4 billion dollars.  
The first financial evidence of the strategy working came in the Full Year 2016 Financial Results when the company rebounded from a loss of $866 million to post a hefty profit of $4.6 billion dollars along with debt reduction of 30%.  Higher prices propelled a 90% profit increase in FY 2017, at $8.8 billion, with another huge reduction in total debt – 60%. Finally, investors were rewarded with a $1.5 billion share buyback during the year and a 58% increase in dividend payments. The analyst consensus rating for Rio is OUTPERFORM.  
South32 (S32) operates here in Australia as well as in Africa and South America, mining coal, alumina, manganese, nickel, lead, zinc, and silver.  South32 recently announced its solar farm for its Cannington lead and silver mine in Queensland.  
This is a smaller scale project that will primarily provide power to the company’s village and airport, with some surplus used in mining and processing operations.  It is the first hybrid power project, coupling solar power and existing gas generators.
South sees this as a pilot project to assess feasibility for other locations.  Solar and solar hybrids have significant potential for remote mining locations, not accessible to the electric grid.  The Cannington project will be the second largest such remotely located operation.
South32 was spun off from BHP Billiton, listing on the ASX in May of 2015.  After a slow start, the share price is rising, and the company reported its first profit of $1.6 billion in FY 2017, up from a loss of $2.1 billion in FY 2016.

OZ Minerals (OZL) owns and operates one copper mine here in Australia at Prominent Hill, with a development project scheduled to go operational in FY 2019 at Carrapateena, both in South Australia. In addition, the company has the West Musgrave development nickel/copper project in Western Australia.
The price of copper reversed its decline in July of 2016 and has been rising since reaching levels not seen since 2013.  Oz Minerals is once again thriving, as net profit more than doubled between FY 2016 and FY 2017, rising from $108 million to $231 million.  
In March of this year the company announced plans for a solar power system at its flagship Prominent Hill mine, with the added benefit of a battery storage facility.  The company sees this project as a first step in adding renewables to both its Carrapateena and West Musgrave mines. Unlike the other miners venturing into renewables, Oz signed a partnership deal with the project developer, US based SolarReserve. 
Along with its operational DeGrussa Copper/Gold mine, Sandfire Resources has multiple joint venture agreements for exploration in its Greater Doolguna Project in Western Australia with Talisman Mining (TLM) and farm-in agreements with Enterprise Metals Limited (ENT) and Great Western Exploration Limited (GTE).  The Monty Copper-Gold Project joint venture with Talisman is expected to go into production by the end of 2018 and is located 10 kilometres from the DeGrussa copper mine.
The company’s DeGrussa Solar project includes battery storage and Sandfire claims “it is largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility in Australia and, reportedly, the world.”
The company’s Half Year 2018 Financial Results showed record revenues, rising from $259.9 million in the First Half of 2017 to $296.2 million, with NPAT (net profit after tax) up 66%.
New Century Resources (NCZ) listed on the ASX in July of 2017 following a reverse takeover of Attila Resources with the aim of re-opening the Century Zinc Mine in Western Australia, shuttered in 2015. Within a month of listing New Century announced positive ore reserve results and the share price has been on the move upward since.

Positive results continued, paving the way for an oversubscribed $40 million equity raise from institutional and sophisticated investors to fund completion of the Century Mine project.  
Australia’s privately held firm SunSHIFT has developed the first of its kind on the planet “moveable solar plant.”  The system consists of pre-fabricated modular panels that can be transported and expanded as needed.  New Century has contracted with SunSHIFT to provide power for the restoration of the Century mine.  The cost is $120/MWH (megawatt hours), a massive saving over the $400/MWH cost of diesel power while the mine was in mothballs (care and maintenance).
Image Resources (IMA) has been laboring in the mineral sands mining sector since listing in 2002.  Along the way the company has commissioned a series of independent analyst reports, with a few initiating coverage with speculative buy ratings. Patersons Securities issued a hopeful research note on 6 March that should encourage long-suffering investors.  Image Resources appears on the verge of acquiring the financing needed to proceed with mining operations of Zircon within nine months.  
Paterons has a target price of $0.19 on IMA stock, currently trading at $0.10 and is forecasting the company to turn profitable by the end of FY 2019.
Image Resources has contracted with Western Australian firm Sunrise Energy Group to construct a solar farm to connect directly to the existing electrical infrastructure and provide 25% of the mines electricity needs.  Image expects to begin mining production by the end of the year, with construction of the solar farm to begin early next year. 

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