Several South African mines have plans to roll out their own power generation capacity over the next few years.
A presentation by the Minerals Council at this year’s Mining Indaba showed that at least seven mining companies are either busy developing or considering potential projects.
The total electricity that could be generated by these projects amounts to 609MW, with 586MW being sourced from photovoltaic (PV) solar installations.
Several of these could be completed in nine months, including the 200MW currently under development at Sibanye Stillwater.
The Goldfields South Deep Mine plans to add 40MW of solar power, supplemented by another 23MW of diesel generation within the next year.
Orion may add 38MW of solar generation to its arsenal in nine months, Harmony’s installation plans will see it set up the generation of 30MW in a year, and Exxaro will potentially supplement its operations with 3MW of solar power.
Vedanta is another mining company which plans to add 200MW of self-generating capacity to its operations in the Northern Cape within the next three years.
It told MyBroadband that the company has significant experience with its own power generation in the global space.
“In India, we produce around 9,000MW of power (mostly thermal) for our own use at smelters. This is equal to around 20% of South Africa’s entire thermal power generation capacity,” Vedanta said.
The company is looking at adding the 200MW for its planned smelter-refinery complex at Aggeneys, as this operation requires five times the amount of electricity it currently pulls from Eskom.
Hybrid solution needed
Vedanta wants to partner with an experienced renewable energy owner or developer for its project, but added that the smelter’s energy demands can not be solely supplied by renewable energy.
“As is well known though, renewable energy alone cannot be a stand-alone solution for a high and continuous demand operation like a smelter. This is why Vedanta would be looking at a hybrid solution comprising both renewable energy and Eskom’s grid power as the baseload.”
“Vedanta sees a three-partner collaboration between itself as an off-taker, a solar and/or wind energy owner/producer and Eskom as the preferred route,” the company explained.
To realise such a partnership, Vedanta said substantial changes would have to be made to existing energy legislation, regulations and infrastructure, to enable seamless wheeling onto and off of the grid.
Anglo American is another industry heavyweight which plans to add a solar generating plant at one of its mines.
The company told MyBroadband that the government’s move to allow mines to generate their own power is a welcome development.
“We are encouraged by Minister Mantashe’s acknowledgement that self-generated power in South Africa will be supported by his department. This is a positive step in solving South Africa’s energy crisis,” Anglo American said.
It reiterated the urgency of stabilising Eskom.
“This utility plays an essential role in the lives of all South Africans. Our mining operations are dependent on baseload electricity, and secure energy supply is critical.”
Anglo American said although it has implemented then necessary safety procedures to evacuate and keep its workers safe during load-shedding, the outages have had an “adverse impact” on its operations.
To address the impact, Anglo American has several pilot projects in development. These include a large-scale solar PV project at Mogalakwena PGMs Mine, close to Mokopane in Limpopo.
“The planned solar project is likely to be a 75 MW plant with potential for growth to 100MW. This solar plant would probably generate half of Mogalakwena’s power,” Anglo American stated.
The company said it believes mining can play a key role in getting Eskom back on track.
“Creating a supportive environment for projects such as these can immediately add additional power to the national grid, ease the burden on Eskom and proactively help develop sustainable energy that industrial users that power the South African economy can rely upon.”
The image below shows the potential independent electricity projects that mines may roll out in the next three years.