October 6, 2016 / 12:02 PM / 2 years ago

RPT-Chile's Collahuasi launches large power tender, eyes renewables

By Gram Slattery and Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Chile’s Collahuasi mine, one of the largest copper deposits in the world, told Reuters on Wednesday it had launched a large power tender and a source said it had a particular interest in non-conventional renewable energy.

“Collahuasi is carrying out a private request for bids for 1,200 GWh (gigawatt hours) of annual energy and approximately 150 megawatts of power, to be delivered starting in the year 2020,” a spokesman wrote in an email to Reuters after two sector sources said it was holding the auction.

The sources said Collahuasi - a joint venture of Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc - will receive offers until November, and the winners will be revealed next year. The company is particularly interested in non-conventional renewable energy, which in Chile refers mainly to solar and wind power, one of the sources said.

The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press about the process.

The tender - considered large by industry standards - is likely to be watched closely to see if renewable energies can make significant inroads into Chilean copper mining. Mines in the world’s largest copper producer typically only hold power auctions a few times per decade, at most.

In a massive public auction in August to supply Chile with power for two decades from the 2020s, wind and solar companies won the majority of tendered power.

But copper mining, by far Chile’s most important industry, used such sources for well less than 8 percent of its energy in 2015, according to government copper body Cochilco. Mines on Chile’s northern power grid, one of two grids in the country, used coal for 76 percent of their power needs in 2015.

With renewable energy prices having largely undercut those of conventional energy prices in Chile, some observers speculate copper mines may be willing to turn to solar and wind - despite concerns about reliability and financing - in order to lower power bills.

Among the successful renewable bidders in the public auction in August were Spanish firms Acciona Energia, Ibereolica, Cox Energy, and Solarpack, as well as Ireland’s Mainstream.

Collahuasi produced 455,300 tonnes of copper in 2015. (Reporting by Gram Slattery and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Caroline Stauffer, Bernard Orr)

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