Considering the global emphasis on a just energy transition, South African mining houses are assessing their options for the adoption of renewable energy through either their own build programmes or the procurement of energy from independent power producers, says leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari energy head Janice Foster.
“By increasing their share of renewable-energy supply and reducing their carbon footprint, mines are aligning themselves with the idea of doing business sustainably,” she explains.
The European Union supported a plan in March for a carbon emissions tariff to be applied on imported goods that create environmental damage during their production.
Foster says similar tariffs and taxes will make it increasingly difficult for mines that do not address their carbon footprint and emissions to remain competitive.
Moreover, amid growing awareness regarding the just transition, public opinion will also likely challenge those operations that do not adopt measures to tackle climate change.
She cautions, thus, that the South African mining industry could potentially face repercussions for not adopting renewable energy, particularly because of its lack of global competitiveness.
While a just transition is topical, Foster says any major projects, including renewable-energy projects, come with uncertainty in the technical, financial, environmental and social spheres.
To address this ambiguity, mines should aim to identify the uncertainties at the early stages of project development to avoid potential project pitfalls.
Consulting engineers can help to mitigate uncertainties by conducting technical studies, encouraging stakeholder engagements and flagging early risks.
The firm is undertaking various technical advisory roles for mining projects by guiding the development process, and supporting the procurement of renewable-energy projects by providing necessary technical inputs to possible solutions.
“While it is still early in this journey, we are seeing many mining projects successfully moving through the development process and we expect many of these to come on line in the near future,” concludes Foster.