Solar Planned To Support South African Mines

Solar Planned To Support South African Mines

South African and Australian miners are realising the benefits of using renewable energy to power their mines. It not only reduces their carbon footprint, but also their costs.

“The shift is all the more attractive for miners in South Africa, where power cuts have reached record levels as state power utility Eskom struggles to meet demand.”

As Afrik 21 reports: “Independent Power Producer (IPP) Voltalia is launching the first construction work on a 148 MWp solar photovoltaic power plant in Bolobedu in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The electricity produced will be sold to Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), a subsidiary of the Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto.

“Founded in France in 2005, Voltalia has grown to become an international Energy Producer and Service Provider. They specialize in renewable energy solutions that help clients join the global energy and ecological transition movement. Their purpose? To ‘Improve the global environment while fostering local development.’”

Despite Rio’s recent fall from grace in Australia, where they destroyed ancient indigenous artwork for the sake of iron ore profit, they are a company that usually takes ESG issues seriously. As per a recent press release, Rio Tinto has a stated aim to reach net zero by 2050.

“Executives will outline projects underway to meet challenging decarbonisation targets to halve Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030, on the road to net zero by 2050. Six large emissions abatement programmes are focused on renewable power, process heat, diesel and the ELYSISTM zero carbon aluminium smelting technology to drive the transition to net zero by 2050, supported by high-quality nature based solutions.”

As Reuters reports: “Rio Tinto’s South Africa unit will source solar power from a plant built by France’s Voltalia (VLTSA.PA), the mining firm said on Thursday, the latest to seek alternative electricity supply as South Africa’s rolling power cuts hammer productivity.

“Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), Rio Tinto’s mineral sands operation in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, will source from the Bolobedu photovoltaic plant, which Voltalia will start building next year and finish in 2024. It will supply up to 300 gigawatt hours annually into the national power grid.

“Rio Tinto did not say how much of RBM’s power would be supplied by Bolobedu, but said it was expected to cut RBM’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%. Bolobedu is situated in the South African municipality of Grand Letaba, home to the Kruger National Park.”

The PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) for the solar power plant is for 20 years. Over that time, it is expected to prevent 237,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent from being emitted. That’s akin to removing 50,000 or so gasmobiles from the road. While that may all seem like an altruistic move, it should be noted that RBM is expected to save money due to relatively lower electricity prices over time.

There are also equity components to the project, though. “Voltalia has partnered with local investors in the project, including Black Enterprise, which has a 41% stake, Black Women Enterprise (10%) and Bolobedu Community Trust (5%). Implementing it’s policy of local participation. According to Wikipedia, Greater Leteba is 99% Black African. The remaining 44% is owned by Voltalia, which plans to commission the Bolobedu solar plant in 2024.”

Overall, the solar project is expected to produce 700 jobs while it’s being built and 53 permanent operational jobs.

Voltalia appears to be partnering with mining companies across the African continent to provide renewable energy for industrial and community use. Stay tuned for more news.

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