JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) − The continued roll-out of new renewable energy capacity is key to the success of current and future mining projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), panellists have indicated during a session of the virtual DRC Mining Week webinar on June 18.
The panel comprised Southern Africa-focused independent power producer (IPP) Tembo Power CEO Raphael Khalifa and IPP Geosolar grid main adviser Serge Tshitembu. Both companies have renewable energy plants commissioned in the DRC.
The panellists concurred that, as more power was introduced into the DRC grid, demand would increase as new opportunities became available.
At present, the vast majority of the DRC is unelectrified, with many remote mines having to install their own power plants or potentially tap into nearby small-scale power plants, where available.
According to Khalifa and Tshitembu, the current electricity deficit in the DRC, solely from a mining-demand perspective was difficult to estimate, but was in the region of about 4 000 MW.
Khalifa said renewable energy had an important role to play in the energy mix in the DRC, with most of its currently-installed capacity being that of hydropower.
This means that carbon credits are also lower in the DRC as a result of the country already using a large volume of renewable-derived sources of electricity and little power derived from fossil fuel sources.
However, some mines in the DRC have installed large fossil-fuel fired power plants to operate remote mines and to ensure they are independent of national grid insecurity and interruptions.
Tshitembu said that when looking at the operating expenditure of DRC mines, it becomes evident that they use a lot of fuel. “This is definitely not environment-friendly and, in terms of pursuing a decarbonised future, is definitely the right time for investment into green energy sectors.”
Even in terms of the number of funds investing into the energy sector, he pointed out that the majority were investing a lot into green energy projects all around the world. “It is definitely a trend and need that matches the environmental issues and the market demands for purchasing power.”
More generally, Tshitembu added that there was a need for miners, especially for those mining copper and cobalt, to show that the minerals were being responsibly mined, and that this meant the power such mines consumed should also be responsibly generated.
This, in turn, is driving a greater demand for renewable energy projects that DRC mines can tap into.
There is further demand from electronics manufactures to also ensure their components are made using materials that have been responsibly mined, therefore, further putting pressure on DRC miners to shift away from fossil-fuel-derived energy sources.
As traceability measures become more entrenched, Khalifa said that very soon these major electronics manufacturers would not be able to source copper or cobalt that had not been mined responsibly.