African Mining Firms Pursuing Renewable Energy Partners

African Mining Firms Pursuing Renewable Energy Partners

Wind energy farm in South Africa (Photo: res-sa.com)
Wind energy farm in South Africa (Photo: res-sa.com)

While deploying solar hybrid systems to supplement existing power sources can help mining companies tackle their power challenges during the day, combining solar with wind power at the same site can also decrease the power “intermittency” problem at night while extending the life and decreasing the maintenance costs of diesel generators even further.

“So, it’s a promising market, but most mines are sort of waiting for someone to go first and prove that you can integrate the solar and wind with diesel,” Asmus told AFKInsider.

Several mining companies in Africa have initiated pilot projects to assess the practicality of renewable energy.

“If you look at IAMGold, they have put solar panels in South America and they’re looking at putting solar panels in Bukino Faso,” Benoit La Salle, Canadian-based Windiga Energy’s President and CEO told AFKInsider.

Toronto-based IAMGOLD is currently assessing solar options to help power their Essakane mine in Burkina Faso where energy represents nearly 25 percent of their costs and African Barrick Gold, which has three gold mines in Tanzania, is exploring the possibility of using solar energy for its Bulyanhulu mine and

Australia-based has been experimenting with solar and wind in other countries and is considering deploying renewable energy at its African locations as well.

“Rio Tinto is trying to be as green as possible in the mining sector,” Alexander Ochs, director of the Climate and Energy Program at Worldwatch Institute told AFKInsider.

Canadian-based Windiga Energy announced Oct. 22 it signed a 25-year “power purchase agreement” with the National Electricity Company of Burkina Faso (SONABEL) for a 20 megawatt solar power plant in Zina located in the Province of Mouhoun.

“The solar project we have in Burkina Faso goes to the grid, but we know some of the energy is going to be sold right back to the Mana mine,” Windiga Energy’s President and CEO La Salle told AFKInsider.

The Mana gold mine is operated by Canadian-based mining company SEMAFO.

“When we originally put the solar project together, I worked as CEO of SEMAFO and that’s why we put this project together, so it could service the local community and also the mine could buy some of the energy,” La Salle told AFKInsider.

Some noteworthy pilot projects have also popped up in South Africa, including a solar-diesel hybrid electric plant that supplies 60 percent of the energy for Cronimet Mining Power Solutions’ chromium ore mine in Thabazimbi, and the Anglo American Mines PV Project in Mpumalanga.

In fact, when the mining sector and the global renewable energy industry met in South Africa during the June 2014 Renewables and Mining Summit, the conference drew AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, Gold Fields, Anglo Platinum, ArcelorMittal South Africa, Anglo American, Cronimet Power Solutions, PPC Ltd., and REVINSAMB Mineral Mining Holding.

While renewable energy may be strictly an economic decision for mine operators, it has its environmental and social perks.

According to the THEnergy, though renewable energy can be an important part of improving energy costs at mines, it also “sends a strong signal of forward orientation, progressive management and corporate governance.”

It is also about legacy: When the mine runs dry, the mining company could leave the renewable energy infrastructure in place as a “thank you” to the local community.