JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Latest news from Sedibelo Platinum Mines in North West province is that the company’s Pilanesberg platinum mines situated in the Bushveld Complex, 207 km west of Johannesburg, will not only have abundant solar power on site plus a world-first smelterless processing technology that consumes 82% – yes, 82% – less electricity than conventional platinum group metals (PGMs) smelters, but it will also be powered by wind energy.
“We have committed now to a wind project. We have signed the contract,” Pallinghurst Group managing partner and cofounder Arne Frandsen confirmed to Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
The company has secured an allocation of off-site wind power to augment already announced on-site solar.
In a mining investment world increasingly dominated by environmental, social and governance (ESG) demands, the resolve of Sedibelo Platinum Mines to be a green PGMs producer was firmed up last year by the timely first-of-a-kind appointment of a chief ESG officer.
“As you know we have Lael Bethlehem as our chief ESG officer. She is in charge of our renewable energy drive, and she has some very interesting prospects for solar on our site and I'm really excited about that.
“The first solar step will be of significant size, and I like the combination of solar and wind because quite often when the sun is not shining, the wind is blowing and it's a very good combination. It is also about showing clear intent, which is to ensure we can produce the greenest ounce of PGM available.” Frandsen emphasised.
Frandsen chairs the Sedibelo Platinum Mines Limited in South Africa’s North West, as well as leading the New York- and Toronto-listed Nouveau Monde Graphite, which operates out of Quebec. He has spent years co-developing a strategy to deliver a zero-carbon battery grade graphite mine in Canada, and in South Africa, he’s overseeing the expansion of Sedibelo’s Pilanesberg PGMs mine, which is also commissioning new smelterless technology on site right now amid a decade of research, development and plant piloting.
Sedibelo launched its involvement with Kell at its launch at the premises of South Africa’s State-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) ten years ago.
Sedibelo shares an interest in Kell with the IDC and founder Keith Liddell, who conceived the smelterless concept many years ago, when working at South Africa’s State-owned mineral research organisation Mintek, in Malibongwe Drive, Randburg, Gauteng.
“We’ve done all the testing, all of the development together, and the key thing for Sedibelo, as the user, is to have it up and running as soon as practically possible.
“We are also a co-owner of the technology within the Southern African Development Community and it's also about our bigger strategy.
“We don't want this magic potion for ourselves alone. As you know, we are talking about nearly 90% of the world's PGMs being in our beautiful part of the world and that means this has to be the home for Kell in respect of PGMs,” is the sharing sentiment expressed by Frandsen. “At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the right thing, being sustainable and being responsible in the way that we use our electricity.”
Kell’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from concentrate to final refined metals are only 19% of the CO2 emissions caused by the current smelting and refining route.
Mining Weekly: Is the introduction of green hydrogen at Sedibelo much further off?
Frandsen: No, it's not much further off. We have committed, as a company, to that vision. We have a team that is looking at the green hydrogen initiatives and, for sure, we want to be right in the middle of the entire hydrogen highway concept that is being introduced. This is going to be very important and not only for the mining industry but for South Africa and neighbouring countries as well.
The Pallinghurst Group now has within its fold all the key elements needed for lithium-ion batteries, fuel-cells and the green hydrogen economy.
Last year, through its transaction with Talon Metals of the US, it also brought in nickel, copper and cobalt, which augment the already-in-the-bag graphite, battery-grade lithium hydroxide and PGMs. Talon Metals has been the beneficiary of $115-million from the US government as a result of its production of green sustainable nickel.
How are things going on the decarbonisation front at your operations in Canada?
They’re going tremendously well. We have signed long-term agreements with Hydro Quebec, which means that all the electricity we’re using is hydro generated, making it as green as it comes. The water flows 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s the most reliable source of energy. In our nickel operation, we’ve started focusing on carbon capture and storage underground.
Are you talking about carbon capture, storage and utilisation?
Yes, absolutely. We all know the value of carbon and the many things you can do with it. It seems silly just to let it loose into the air and not use it. We need to use it. We need to be smart about how we harvest it, how we store it, and how we reuse it. At Pallinghurst, we have a team that is looking exclusively at recycling in general, as well as at the recycling of carbon, the recycling of batteries, and the recycling of plastic. It's the entire mentality of reusing materials that have once been used, and carbon, to my mind, is a core element of that.
Why do you regard environmental friendliness as being so absolutely essential?
Because I don't think you can enter the grey zone here. It’s back to the question you asked me some years back on how the mining industry can become the darling of the investment community again. We can do that by doing the right things. The consumer, at the end of the day, does not want to pollute if he or she can avoid it. We want to show that we can cleanly extract resources that can be used in electrification and decarbonisation, and that we can play an active role as well in dealing with the carbon footprint that others have created. In some way, you just have to turn it around and use that to your benefit. Whilst at this point in time I cannot point to receiving a higher price for a green ounce of platinum, there will come a time when we will likely be able to obtain a price premium on green ounces.
SUPPORT FOR LOCALLY PRODUCED BATTERIES
Nouveau Monde Graphite last week closed its private placement, raising $50-million from Mitsui & Co, Pallinghurst Bond Limited and Investissement Quebec (IQ).
Through the private placement, Mitsui subscribed for $25-million in convertible notes, and Pallinghurst and IQ each subscribed for $12.5-million.
The company intends to use the proceeds of the placement to work in the upcoming months on optimising the feasibility on its Phase 2 commercial integrated operations.
The intention is to proceed with project financing and the final investment decision (FID) on both the Matawinie and Bécancour battery material plant projects, located within a 150 km radius of Montréal, once the optimisation phase is completed and all operational variables are understood. Based on current information, Nouveau Monde Graphite anticipates a 28-month construction period following FID to bring its operations to commercial production.
Last month, Nouveau Monde Graphite entered into a framework agreement with Panasonic Energy, establishing the terms of the commercial relationship between the parties to enable the next development steps of an ore-to-battery-market integrated graphite project, in Quebec.
The companies also signed an offtake agreement for a significant portion of Nouveau Monde Graphite’s anode material out of its fully integrated ‘ore-to-anode’ facilities.
The partnerships with Panasonic Energy and Mitsui are expected to firm up Nouveau Monde’s opportunity to benefit from North American legislation that supports locally produced batteries.