The rebound in commodity prices should usher in new projects as well as the expansion of existing operations in Southern Africa’s mining industry, but the region, counteractively, has an insufficient power supply, says fast-track mobile turbine power provider APR Energy regional sales director Colm Quinn.
“Global commodity prices are staging a recovery and Southern Africa’s mining operations will need to mobilise as quickly as possible if they are going to take full advantage of the coming rebound. Access to reliable, cost-effective power should not be a stumbling block.”
The lack of investment in the region’s sector over recent years, since the collapse in commodity prices in mid-2014, will result in significant challenges for mining in 2017, he warns.
Mining companies in Southern Africa have been reluctant to build new projects, owing to the slump in commodity prices, with the latest report from multinational professional services network PwC estimating that the mining sector in this region has suffered impairments of R60-billion.
The Southern African mining industry has decreased by about 30% over the past three years and, while commodity prices have increased in recent months, experts predict that the industry is likely to still see substantial volatility and slow growth in 2017.
Quinn indicates that this is the result of the absence of new developments in the region since 2014, which has also resulted in a lack of sufficient electricity generation and distribution infrastructure available to power many new sites. Therefore, he says, over the coming years, one of the biggest challenges for mining in the region, which has a history of power failures, will be the availability of power.
Quinn highlights that, because of the vast amount of power required to run a mining operation, an insufficient power supply directly translates to a lack of production capabilities and, ultimately, a lack of revenue. He adds that installing new permanent generation and distribution capacity can take anywhere from three to five years – or even longer – which would severely limit the pace of the recovery of the mining sector in Southern Africa.
Quinn states that deploying mobile fast-track power to expanding and new sites as an interim solution could translate directly into revenue for a mining operation. “There is no reason to wait years for infrastructure.” He explains that fast-track power solutions can be deployed in 30 to 60 days, bringing guaranteed power supply and uptime to an operation.
Quinn says finding a fast-track power supplier that can deliver is essential, emphasising the necessity of finding a fuel-flexible solution, as choosing the wrong kind of fuel or the inability to switch between fuel sources, as cheaper options become available, could needlessly drive up costs.
In this vein, Quinn notes that APR Energy provides a range of mobile fast-track power solutions that can be scaled to the requirements of any operation.