Mines are currently focused on driving down costs and pushing up production.
Unfortunately, the industry is one of the most inefficient in the nation.
A recent analysis from CommSec shows that Australian mining has become less - not more - efficient over the past five years.
Mining has been given a wake-up call and senior management is now focused on how to optimise this investment, boost productivity and ensure the mine site operates efficiently round the clock.
With industry accounting for 33% of energy consumption in Australia, consistent, high quality energy is a must - if the power goes out the whole plant can come to a standstill.
A reliable power supply is crucial to productivity, profits and project delivery and mines are now looking at new technologies to safeguard and protect their power supplies.
Schneider Electric recently acquired Areva Distribution and is a well-established name in the design and manufacture of substations and mobile substations.
These substations house all the power needs of the mine site including main switchboards, medium voltage switchgear, AC & DC auxiliary supply systems, SCADA, RTU and PLC systems.
Fixed site substations, often referred to as "Powerhouses" or "E houses," are prefabricated and transported to site. However, more recently attention has turned to transportable substations, which are prefabricated to order, fully equipped at the factory and delivered to the site, ready to 'plug and play'.
Driving critical power on site
Substations are vital to the operation of any mine site.
The substations are used to provide power for conveyors, fans and ventilation, pumps, extraction, processing equipment and other system components.
In addition it supplies power for the heating, cooling and lighting requirements for administration and living quarters.
"There is a trend for mining industry clients to ask for prefabricated solutions," Warren Utteridge, Schneider Electric's operations manager - primary substations said.
"Some of the sites we go to are literally in the middle of nowhere.
So a prefabricated solution reduces the work that has to be done by the client's own staff or contractors in terms of fabrication, testing and commissioning.
This saves time and money and gives them peace of mind knowing their product is ready to go."
Mobile substations are always made to order to meet the variable demands of the development and environmental conditions.
Rigorous testing prior to departure means only minor work is required on delivery.
To install on site, mining companies simply prep the ground and connect the metal stump foundation.
A prefabricated solution takes away the on-site work, and decreases the number of contractors required to wire the installation, reducing complexity from a project building schedule.
"We will send a crew to the site to commission the substation. We'll secure it, install the isolators, and transformers," Utteridge said.
"Medium to complex projects may require up to three weeks to make the mobile substation fully operational before handover to our customer. This includes all stress testing on-site."
Stand alone Emergency Mobile Substations are permanently mounted on a semi-trailer.
These are ideal for delivering substations within the shortest times and providing maintenance without power interruption or even restoring power after damage in emergency situations.
One of the biggest tasks of any manufacturing plant expansion is the design, plan and build of a brick or concrete substation.
Common complaints from project managers include high costs of labour and material, occupational risks and the long completion time.
A pre-built, fully tested power house solution needs only to be bolted down and cable connected.
It can be put into service within weeks.
Schneider Electric works closely with mining companies and understands their critical power needs.
Utteridge stated that "MEPS (Minimum energy performance) requirements are mandatory. We ensure compliance in the design of the substation.
"Some of our mining clients are situated in remote areas with hot, dry and dusty climates, so our substations are designed to withstand harsh environments.
"For example, LNG projects off the coast of Australia required a fully welded construction to protect against Zone 2 hazardous locations and cyclonic ratings, as the substations are exposed to tropical conditions.
"Other clients include ore extractors, where the hot environmental conditions mean substations need to be resistant to corrosion and high surface temperatures."
A prefabricated solution also represents a fast and convenient way to upgrade an installation.