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On-The-Air (18/08/2023)

Martin Creamer discusses renewables and decarbonisation projects.

18th August 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sebenzlle Nkambule speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Nkambule: Another South African gold mine is going green with the generation of 30 MW of solar power in the Free State.

Creamer: As you know, green and gold are great South African colours. They are our national sporting colours. While we may never have expected green to be associated with our gold in metal form, it is being associated more and more these days out of pure necessity. This is because unless gold mining companies use cleaner energy, and produce gold with cleaner energy, they are going to pay penalties in the future.

Gold mining companies know that, but in the meantime, as Harmony Gold goes ahead now with a solar power project, they are in line to have electricity that is not only cleaner, but also much cheaper, to a point where they are going to even go three times higher on renewable energy generation as part of a second phase. Once they get their next 137 MW in place, they are going to be saving, can you believe it, R425-million a year on electricity costs. That gives you an idea of how expensive Eskom’s coal-fired power is.

So, decarbonising and going green has got benefits in all directions. We see also in Gauteng, at South Deep gold mine, a large volume of solar power is already being generated, with plans in place to produce wind energy as well. If you go to Evander, on the Far East Rand, you see Pan African Resources also producing solar power. So, a lot of the gold mines are going green, and it’s great.

Nkambule: An India-controlled zinc mine in the Northern Cape – Vedanta Zinc International – this week struck a deal to generate its own clean electricity.

Creamer: Yes, so we have the big BRICS summit about to be hosted here in Johannesburg next week and one of the people flying in to attend the BRICS summit is the head of the Vedanta group, Anil Agarwal. He is doing so when his company, Vedanta Zinc International, is announcing the introduction of solar power in the Northern Cape for the Vedanta zinc mine.

Zinc is being associated with cleaner marketing, cleaner metals and making Mother Earth a cleaner place in which to live, so it would be hypocritical of zinc miners to continue to be content with making zinc using electricity by burning coal. The world is being cold-shouldering coal-fired power because of its carbon intensity and the environmental risk that it poses to the planet. It could also mean that when they try to sell the zinc they mine and process using coal-fired energy, they are going to run into price penalties, because people are going to say, no, we will pay you less for your product because you didn't use clean energy.

To avoid all that negativity, Vedanta is going headlong into producing its own solar power and by September next year, they will have their first 12 MW, with plans to go much bigger thereafter. So, most the time, we see relatively small renewables plants to begin with and then huge ones on the drawing boards that will follow, with companies like Vedanta aspiring to go green completely, using solar power and perhaps also looking at wind power as well over time.

Nkambule: A company mining vanadium in North West province is going ahead with a 25 MW solar power project.

Creamer: In South Africa’s North West, Glencore Alloys produces vanadium at Rhovan where the London- and Johannesburg-listed mining and marketing group is launching its initial foray into renewable energy.

But Glencore Alloys is an even bigger producer of ferrochrome, and while the kickoff is into producing their own solar power for vanadium, the company is already 90% down the line in negotiations for 200 MW of clean power from sources off its operational sites, and also 40% of the way to another negotiation for the supply of 150 MW. In all they are likely to be heading  towards 400 MW of clean power.

Glencore Alloys requires a lot of electricity. It is important for them to have a lot because they have lost market share in the global ferrochrome business, because Eskom hasn't been able to supply them with enough electricity and sufficiently competitive electricity. South Africa used to be the leading ferrochrome producer but China is now a bigger ferrochrome producer, using the chrome that South Africa supplies to it to produce ferrochrome in China. We are having to export more chrome instead of ferrochrome, because of the shortage of electricity, and efforts are now being made to remedy this unfortunate situation.

Nkambule: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly and will be back with us at the same time next Friday.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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