South Africa’s largest gold producer, Harmony Gold, has announced plans to build new solar energy generation capacity of up to 100 MW to power its mining operations and reduce reliance on Eskom’s increasingly expensive power.
The gold producer on Tuesday said it plans to bring 30MW of renewable energy in the first phase of the project. The first phase will see the company develop three, 10 megawatts (MW) solar energy plants for its Free State operations.
Harmony Gold also plans to develop an additional 70-80MW of renewable energy over the next 18 months as part of the second phase for its renewable energy plan. The projects are set to complement the company’s existing initiatives on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“ In addition to these two phases, we have a pipeline of renewable and alternative energy projects in various stages of development,” the company said in a statement.
“We have also implemented more than 200 energy savings initiatives which have yielded an estimated savings of R1 billion since 2016 and an energy reduction of approximately 1.3 terawatt hours or 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide,” added Harmony Gold.
South African miners utilising the “100MW threshold”
A commodities boom has seen many mining companies particularly in South Africa posting record profits. This week Harmony Gold posted a net profit increase of 758% to R5 590 million (US$352 million), compared to a net loss of R850 million (US$56 million) in the previous year. The company’s financial position will be essential in financing the planned renewable energy build.
South Africa’s government recently amended the country’s energy regulations to allow embedded energy generation systems of up to 100MW to be developed and connect to the national grid without requiring a generation licence from the regulator NERSA. Many miners welcomed these changes with excitement and have announced plans to develop their own capacity to reduce reliance on Eskom supplied power.
Renewable energy is increasingly attractive to mining companies in South Africa due to its pricing which is significantly less than the Eskom generated coal electricity. Renewable energy also offers miners an opportunity to offset part of their carbon tax as well as improve their environmental credentials.
Harmony Gold joins other South African mining companies like Gold Fields, Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlats), Sibanye Stillwater etc who have announced plans to develop their own renewable energy generation capacity and significantly reduce consumption of Eskom electricity.