JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Investment approval for the solar project at the Mogalakwena platinum group metals (PGMs) mine in Limpopo is expected in the first quarter of next year.
“We are making progress with the environmental scoping study and the environmental impact assessment will commence following investment approval,” Anglo American Platinum head of communication Jana Marais stated in a written response to Mining Weekly.
Marais said that good progress was being made with the adjudication process, following the closure on September 30 of the request for proposals.
Application for an electricity generating licence is made to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
“We intend to present the project for investment approval in the first quarter of 2021. Once investment approval is granted and the preferred bidder selected, engagement with Eskom for grid access and Nersa for a generating licence will progress as the next phase of the licence application will require a detailed plant design,” she outlined.
Also on track to make its debut at Mogalakwena early next year is the 300 t zero-emission hydrogen truck being developed by the PGMs mine, in Limpopo.
As reported by Mining Weekly last month, the electrolyser that will generate renewable hydrogen for the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle project has been delivered to site by Nel Hydrogen Electrolyser, as part of the joint partnership with Engie and Anglo American, announced last year.
The 3.5 MW electrolyser is an alkaline electrolyser, which is not catalysed by PGMs, and not a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser, which makes use of both platinum and iridium. The alkaline electrolyser will split water into oxygen and the hydrogen that the large truck’s fuel cell will convert into electricity to power what will be the world’s largest fuel cell electric vehicle and the excess hydrogen will be stored for use at night or when solar radiation is poor.
The long-term target is to convert the entire fleet of haul trucks at Mogalakwena to hydrogen and to also introduce decarbonised hydrogen mobility at other Anglo American mines.
The use of alkaline electrolysis rather than a PEM electrolysis prompted his question:
Mining Weekly: Why is Anglo American Platinum not using PEM technology, given that PEM makes use of platinum and iridium and should be promoted at this crucial time of unfolding new technology?
"For a fast and efficient implementation of our Smart Power project at Mogalakwena, Engie could deliver us a plug-and-play integrated hydrogen system which uses an alkaline electrolyser. With scale, PEM electrolysers will be at least on par with alkaline for cost, so our market development activities will focus on PEM electrolysers, as we believe both technologies will co-exist in the market," Marais stated.
Mining Weekly: The ultralow-energy technology that replaces electricity-intensive smelting and refining – Kell technology – uses a fifth of the power, which makes a clean power link so much more feasible. Does Anglo American Platinum have a view on potentially converting to this technology?
"We continue to watch the development of Kell technology with interest," was the company's response.
As has been pointed out by Lifezone director and Kell developer Keith Liddell, smelting and refining PGMs in South Africa requires 5 000 GWh of Eskom power support a year. If Kell replaced the current pyrometallurgical processes, nearly 4 000 GWh a year could be returned to the South African power pool.
Using renewable energy to power the Kell technology would result in optimum decarbonisation and lowering the high demand South Africa’s PGM mining companies place on Eskom’s coal-fired electricity.
End products can be customised, 99.95% refining can take place on site, and cobalt, which is destroyed in the current process, can be recovered.