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Mining - unlocking asset energy efficiency potential - Cannington Mine


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Closed Posted: 24 Oct 19. Closes: 27 Nov 19 Available: Summer vac + Semester 1 (Dec - Jun)

Summer vacation + Semester 1 2020 project

Summer vacation + Semester 1 2020 project
** UQ students only **


Suited to: final year final year Electrical or Mechatronics Engineering students (UQ). If you are selected, the project will be your final year thesis / Masters project topic so you must be eligible to enrol in the appropriate unit/s during Semester 1 2020.

The successful applicant will receive a $6,000 scholarship + academic credit for enrolment/assessment (4units - UQ ITEE).  

If selected, you must be available to work on the project onsite for 5 days/week over summer vacation (excluding public holidays) + 3 days/week during Semester 1 2020 (working around lecture timetable), and 5 days/week over summer vacation (excluding public holidays). 

NOTE: over summer vacation, you will be working on the project at the Cannington mine site - located in regional Queensland.  Accommodation (in the onsite village) and flights/travel from Brisbane airport to the mine site and return, will be covered by South32.  Note that the site is 'clean shaven' (ie. no beards / moustaches) for workplace health & safety reasons.

APPLICANTS NOTE: you must include your academic transcript/s inside your resume - unofficial transcript for current degree + transcript for past degree - Masters students) + your student ID number.  Combine your resume and transcript/s into one doc/pdf.  We cannot progress your application until you provide this info in your resume.

For UQ ITEE students - you must have a study plan approved before your application can be accepted by CEED. You must make an appointment with an academic advisor to have your study plan reviewed and approved.  Contact: Dr Alex Pudmenzky -  [email protected] or Richard Thomas, ASAP.

Location: Cannington Mine via McKinlay (regional Qld – near Mt Isa) QLD
Categories: Electrical Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering

Project Background / Description

South32 has ambitious short and long-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, which include:

  • In FY21, achieving below our FY15 Scope 1 carbon emissions
  • Globally achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050

In order to achieve these goals, each operation will have a decarbonisation plan developed. South32’s initial focus is on large emitting operations, however Cannington has recognised the need to take early steps proactively to achieve these targets. In order to identify opportunities, a better understanding of our energy and emissions profile will be needed. Decarbonisation is a major driver, however there are others which justify action in their own right.

Cannington has an off-grid electrical power network, with electricity generated on site by natural gas fired internal combustion engines, and a 3MW solar PV system. Recently we have seen fluctuations in the pipeline gas quality and this has contributed significantly to a reduction in the reliability of our electricity supply.  The power station engines have been de-rated which has limited our ability to manage spinning reserve during peak loading.  The fluctuations in gas specifications will continue for the foreseeable future. There is therefore an opportunity to improve Cannington’s energy security by reducing our baseload electricity consumption through energy efficiency improvements.

Furthermore, Cannington is facing increased mine complexity, reduced ore grades and market conditions. There is a drive to realise operational cost reductions in order to consistently improve shareholder value. The annual cost to Cannington for electricity is of the order of $30M, and its diesel bill is in excess of $10M. Our electricity, gas and diesel supply contracts are structured such that a reduction in electricity usage will also result in a reduction in operating cost. 


South32 is a globally diversified mining and metals company. We produce bauxite, alumina, aluminium, energy and metallurgical coal, manganese, nickel, silver, lead and zinc at our operations in Australia, Southern Africa and South America.

We are also the owner of a high-grade zinc, lead and silver development option in North America and have several partnerships with junior explorers with a focus on base metals.

Our purpose is to make a difference by developing natural resources, improving people’s lives now and for generations to come.

We are trusted by our owners and partners to realise the potential of their resources.

Cannington is one of the world's largest and lowest-cost producers of silver and lead.  Located in northwest Queensland, Cannington boasts an underground mine and processing facility situated approximately 800 kilometres west of Townsville and a concentrate handling facility at the Port of Townsville. Cannington is a fly-in fly-out operation to the urban centres of Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane, offering 4/3, 8/6 or combination rosters. Flight times also allow for day trips and three day site visits where required.

At South32, our people are fundamental to our success. We’re focused on creating an inclusive workplace, with the right people in the right roles, who are engaged, empowered and appropriately rewarded.

We aspire to be an inclusive organisation, where our workforce reflects the broader demographic of the countries and communities where we operate.

South32 offers industry leading vacation student and graduate programs. We embrace diversity and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds.

Objectives / Tasks / Project Outcomes

  • Collate current data on electricity and diesel usage with the intent to understand the energy consumption of specific equipment (e.g. create an energy Sankey diagram)
  • Close gaps in the body of data through improved metering, data collection processes and data analysis
  • Conduct preliminary investigations to identify which equipment has the largest energy reduction opportunities
  • Provide recommendations for low hanging fruit and high value improvement opportunities
  • Stretch target: Develop and imbed a system for ongoing monitoring of energy usage

Skills / Experience Required

  • A fundamental understanding of energy systems
  • A fundamental knowledge of energy efficiency
  • Able to engage with a multi-disciplinary workforce to obtain data and contextual information
  • Able to work within established systems of a large organisation in order to achieve outcomes
  • A practical knowledge of metering systems and technology
  • Knowledge of electrical power systems would be advantageous but is not mandatory
  • Knowledge of internal combustion engine performance characteristics would be advantageous but is not mandatory
  • Knowledge of greenhouse gases and climate systems would be advantageous but is not mandatory


Note: accommodation on-site and travel costs between Brisbane airport and the site will be covered by the company.

Note this site is ‘clean shaven’ – ie. no beards, moustaches (for workplace health and safety reasons)

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