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Clean energy on way to platinum mines from R2.5bn solar project in North West

Two Rivers platinum mining operation.

Solar development adjacent to ARM-linked solar project.

19th September 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Platinum mines operated by Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed diversified mining company African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) will be on the receiving end of clean power from a R2.5-billion solar plant now under construction in South Africa’s North West province.

This follows local independent power producer SOLA Group reaching agreement with local commercial banks and partners to provide finance to start construction on the 132 MWp solar project, which will sell energy to ARM’s platinum mining operations through a long-term power purchase agreement. 

From 2026, the project is to supply ARM Platinum's mining operations with 270 GWh of carbon-free electricity a year for 20 years. It is owned by SOLA and African Rainbow Energy with senior lending from ABSA, Standard Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and Nedbank. Financing, ownership, construction, and design are all 100% South African.

This is the third large-scale renewable energy project closed by SOLA in six months, bringing its total number of megawatts under construction to 390 MW. This involves 588 000 solar panels spread over an area of 750 ha and providing close to 1 TWh of energy a year, which is the equivalent of 11% of South Africa's electricity supply shortfall, as well as the creation of 1 200 employment opportunities.

SOLA will construct and operate the solar facility in joint venture with South African construction company WBHO.

"Apart from providing cheaper, cleaner energy into the network, this project also stimulates local economic development in areas where people have had limited employment opportunities,” SOLA executive director and co-founder Chris Haw stated in a release to Mining Weekly.

The project has committed to training local employees with skills that will be in high demand amid South Africa’s estimated requirement of 6 000 MW of new clean power generation a year for the next ten years.

This project, plus two other projects under construction in the North West, brings R6.4-billion worth of investments and more than 300 MWAC to the province, with African Rainbow Energy now invested in a gigawatt of renewable energy projects. 

“This demonstrates our commitment to building a modern privately owned utility using technology to provide clean energy solutions to large customers, supporting the transition of the energy sector, creating more jobs, and changing the lives of South Africans,” said African Rainbow Energy CEO Brian Dames.

Advisory work for the project was conducted by Faskens, Pinsent Masons, Peppertree Capital, Barbet Capital, Herbert Smith Freehills, Verdigris, and Prozesky Consulting.

The ARM-linked project, still at an early stage, is next to this 390 MW photovoltaic North West province cluster.

African Rainbow Energy holds 40% of SOLA and the main shareholder of African Rainbow Energy is Ubuntu-Botho Energy Holdings founded by ARM executive chairperson Dr Patrice Motsepe.

In the 12 months to June 30, ARM achieved the 4% carbon reduction target that Motsepe set for it. “But that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” former ARM CEO Mike Schmidt has reported, in his new green capacity as executive of growth and strategic development in the chairperson’s office.

ARM’s targets to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from mining by 2050, are reviewed yearly.

Through its membership of the International Council on Mining and Metals, ARM went public in 2017 on management incentivisation to meet the net-zero imperative and steps are now being taken to ensure that every ARM operation becomes more energy efficient, greener and less dependent on fossil fuels.

Engineers and production staff are incentivised on energy efficiency per tonne of ore milled, time of energy use, and use of alternative energy sources. Remuneration and incentive packages of production teams and other appropriate positions at the smelters include key performance indicators linked to emission-reduction initiatives.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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