South African mining sector wants solar

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The mining business is an energy-intensive one and having to deal almost every day with the potential risk of load-shedding, which occurs when South Africa’s troubled national utility Eskom reduces power supply because demand on the network is too much for it to handle, is not exactly an ideal condition to get things done and make business work properly.

For this reason, the Minerals Council South Africa, which is the country’s mining-industry employer organization, has now decided to take action by asking the government to ensure power security. “The Minerals Council firmly believes that the electricity supply crisis is the biggest single risk to the South African economy,” the trade body said in a statement.

Urgent measures

It also said that the time frame of two years indicated by Eskom for restoring a reliable power supply would be disastrous for the economy of the country, unless urgent additional power supply from independent power producers is provided from both existing and new sources.

The Minerals Council specified it hopes that more grid-connected solar distributed generation is deployed across the country, and that Eskom contract, at the least cost possible, more renewable energy from existing wind and solar plant that are currently not operational. The organization also urged to government to remove the barriers that are currently preventing the renewable energy sector from improving South Africa’s power supply. In particular, it asked the government to exempt projects not exceeding 10 MW in size from requiring an authorization and to improve the authorization process for environmental and land use.

PV project pipeline of 585 MW

According to Bloomberg, several mining companies operating in South Africa are currently planning to build their own power plants relying on PV with a combined capacity of 585 MW. These include a 200 MW solar plant under development by gold provider Sibanye-Stillwater, a 75 MW facility planned by Anglo American Platinum, a 40 MW solar park by Goldfields, and a 200 MW PV plant by Indian mining company Vedanta. The list also includes a 30 MW project by Harmony, a 38 MW plant by Orion and a smaller 3 MW facility by Exxaro.

Several mining companies across the world have resorted to solar in recent times in order to get cheaper electricity, regardless of how much reliable power supply in their respective countries is.

These include Polish coal mining companies Tauron and ZE PAK SA, Canada-based B2Gold, and Russia-based precious metals mining group Polymetal, among others.

According to a recent report by Fitch Solutions Macro Research, a unit of Fitch Group, shows that the mining industry’s transition to renewables has begun, and is poised to pick up the pace in the coming years. The report revealed that around 1 GW of renewables was already built at mining sites across the world, and that another 1 GW is in the pipeline.