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New solar farm being built in Limpopo, wind boost on way from W Cape – Northam

Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne.

Photo by Creamer Media

Northam Platinum CFO Alet Coetzee.

Photo by Creamer Media

4th March 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Platinum group metals (PGMs) mining company Northam Platinum has begun construction of an 80 MW solar power farm at its Zondereinde operation in Limpopo – and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company will also begin constructing a large wind farm in the Western Cape at year-end.

The mining right of the Zondereinde mine, situated roughly 30 km south of the town of Thabazimbi, covers 9 257 ha, providing ample land for solar.

The 80 MW solar power farm will provide electricity to Zondereinde mine and metallurgical complex with power being supplied behind the Eskom meter. Development is in collaboration with an independent power producer, who will fund the construction and manage the installation.

In addition to the solar and wind power, Northam has 22 MW of on-demand power generation capacity from diesel generators.

Moreover, additional diesel capacity of 35 MW has been purchased and is being installed, with commissioning expected before the end of the third quarter.

This additional capacity will enable all operations to be unimpeded under level 4 Eskom load curtailment conditions, which is the equivalent of stage 6 loadshedding.

In response to Mining Weekly during a post-presentation media briefing, Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne cited speed and ease as the reason why the company was also installing diesel generation.

“We can quickly mitigate the risk of loadshedding events,” Dunne said, whereas solar photovoltaic (PV) power and the wind power development take longer.

“Our very large wind farm in the Western Cape is very close to being sized,” he added.

A slide displayed during Northam’s interim results presentation for the six months to December 31, put expected upcoming wind power at 140 MW.

“Just out of interest, the carbon footprint of these modern diesel generators is lower than the carbon footprint of the average Eskom fleet.

“While it’s a sub-optimal solution from a carbon point of view, the average carbon per kilowatt hour is lower than the average of the Eskom fleet, because these are modern, brand new generators, they’re not old dirty diesels, if I can say it that way.

“Nevertheless, we need to do the renewables as well, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Dunne, who emphasised the low cost advantage of PV over all other options.

“No doubt about it, the price of glass has come down quite significantly to the point where economically it’s quite attractive to put in PV.

“Wind, on the other hand, took a turn the other way. The large wind fans being largely priced in Euros has gone slightly against us. Nevertheless, we will do wind, but the best, as we see it at the moment, is PV.

"We get a good economic return within five years for PV installations, which is, of course, one of the reasons why we say that not only does it provide security of power but it's also going to help us on the unit cost," said Dunne.

Regarding the use of diesel to power mining, Dunne said, again in response to Mining Weekly, that the conversion of high kinetic diesel-driven load haul dumpers (LHDs) to electric is not on at this stage.

“The technology is simply not sufficiently advanced when it comes to LHDs, but the slow movers, such as the drill rigs, are suitable for electrification, and we certainly are looking at that potential for the future,” Dunne outlined.

MINIMISING MINING’S IMPACT

In highlighting that Northam produces metals critical for a cleaner and greener world, Northam CFO Alet Coetzee conceded that mining, by its nature, has an environmental impact.

“So, we’ve consistently looked to minimise the impact across our business,” Coetzee noted during the presentation, covered by Mining Weekly.

Amid this, the Carbon Disclosure Project – a global climate change and water management disclosure platform that tracks the performance of more than 23 000 companies – has rated Northam above the global average.

Moreover, the De Berg Nature Reserve, which is part of Northam’s conservancy trust initiative at the company’s Booysendal PGMs mine that straddles the Limpopo-Mpumalanga border, has been designated as South Africa’s thirtieth Ramsar wetland of international importance.

Northam recycles more than 86% of all the water it uses and has more than halved the volume of water required to produce an ounce of saleable metal over the last decade.

Displayed was a picture of Zondereinde environmental coordinator Mpho Mutobvu at the mine’s newly commissioned reverse osmosis plant, which is poised to improve water recycling efforts.

With cash and cash equivalents of R11.8-billion and available undrawn banking facilities of R11-billion, Northam last week declared an interim cash dividend of 100c a share.

Meanwhile, Geralda Wildschutt has been appointed as an independent non-executive director of Northam.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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