Nearly one-third of mining companies on the continent have targets around renewable energy utilization and are actively looking towards cleaner and greener energy technologies to help drive sustainability in the mining sector, according to a recent Hogan Lovell’s “Future of Mining: Sustainability” report.
Respondents to the survey said increased utilization of green energy is key to bringing various benefits to their respective countries, such as net carbon reduction, a positive impact on communities, employee wellbeing and increased water recycling as well as a greater adherence to voluntary Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards. This transition to green energy has already shown an improvement in commercial metrics, increased brand equity, access to more investors and global climate restoration.
Clean Energy Operations
In April, the Vancouver-based B2Gold, a low-cost international senior gold producer that owns and operates gold mines in Mali and Namibia, announced the commission of an off-grid, hybrid solar battery system at Fekola, one of the biggest gold mines in the world, in southwest Mali.
Jointly implemented with Suntrace GmbH and BayWa r.e., the 30 MW solar plant and 15.4MWh battery storage unit together, constitute the world’s largest such hybrid system for the mining industry and is on course to be 100% complete by the end of June this year.
During the daytime, the new solar plant generates enough energy to permit the shutdown of three out of the mine’s six heavy fuel oil (HFO) generators with the battery storage compensating energy generation fluctuations, thus assuring a reliable operation that will allow for up to 75% of the mine’s electricity demand to be covered by renewable energy. The new plant is set to save 13.1 million liters of HFO and help reduce CO2 emissions by 39,000 tons annually.
Dennis Stansbury, Senior Vice President at B2Gold commented that the implementation of a solar-battery hybrid system was both economically viable and positive for the environment, saying, “This is a landmark project, which we expect to pave the way for more sustainable power generation within the mining industry in West Africa.”
In Namibia, Trevali Mining Corporation, another Vancouver-based global-metals mining company, is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its Rosh Pinah mine through the construction of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. In early-April, the company entered a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Emerging Markets Energy Services Company (Emesco) that will supply 30% of the mine’s power requirements, reduce energy costs by 18% and cut the company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6% during its tenure.
Located in the Karas region of southern Namibia, the PPA covers a solar PV system that will be built near the Rosh Pinah lead and zinc mine and will be financed, built and operated by Emesco at a fixed rate. Operating in the renewable energy markets of Southern Africa, Emesco is a full lifecycle energy services company that has implemented 32 MW of solar PV projects in the region including a 10 MWp solar power plant in Okatope, Namibia and a 2.2 MWp plant on the roof of Airport Junction, a shopping center in Gaborone, Botswana.
According to Trevali, the transition to clean energy is part of its overall policy to reduce its GHG emissions by 25% by 2025 from its 2018 baseline.
Farther south, a collaboration agreement to complete a feasibility study to develop a ‘hydrogen valley’ anchored in the platinum group metals (PGM) rich bushveld area of South Africa was announced in March. Diversified mining and marketing company, Anglo American is investing in renewable hydrogen production technology at its Mogalakwena PGM mine and in the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell (FC) mine haul trucks – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.
Spearheaded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the collaboration comes after the 2020 launch of the South African Hydrogen Society Roadmap, which is aimed at integrating hydrogen into the economy by capitalizing on South Africa’s PGM resources and its renewable energy potential in order to decarbonize the mining sector.
The study is set to be conducted by energy and services company, ENGIE Impact and will identify tangible opportunities to build hydrogen hubs and explore the potential for green energy production and supply at scale.
The collaboration includes companies ENGIE, the South African National Development Institute (SANEDI) and clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy.
The proposed hydrogen valley will extend about 835km from Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGMs mine, near Mokopane in the Limpopo province in the north of South Africa, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast in Durban.
Africa has shown its dedication to a safe, fair and sustainable mining and metals industry, demonstrated by the pursuit of continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change, contributions to the conservation of biodiversity and the support of knowledge-based systems for responsible design, use, re-use and recycling of products containing metals and minerals.