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Solar projects help support miner’s gold, PGMs operations

UNDER THE SUN Sibanye-Stillwater is developing a 50 MW solar PV project to provide electricity for its Kloof ultra-deep level gold mine

DECARBONISATION POTENTIAL Sibanye-Stillwater’s local operations use about 720 MW, of which 310 MW is used for its PGM operations

16th December 2022

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer


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Diversified miner Sibanye-Stillwater is implementing a range of renewable-energy solar photovoltaic (PV) projects to support its local gold and platinum group metals (PGMs) mining operations.

This includes a 50 MW solar PV project to support its gold mining operations, and a combined 175 MW of solar PV projects to support its PGMs operations.

“Not only will they help decarbonise our own footprint and mitigate global climate change, they will also contribute to reducing the electricity supply deficit in South Africa,” states Sibanye-Stillwater energy and decarbonisation head Jevon Martin.

He adds that these renewable-energy projects will also help to reduce overall energy costs at the miner’s operations.

The miner anticipates that these projects will help reduce electricity costs by between 20% and 30%, and will also ensure the longevity of Sibanye’s operations.

This includes ensuring sustainability in the value created for all stakeholders, supporting broad-based black economic empowerment, local job creation and skills transfer, as well as using local content and services.

Gold Operations

The first project that Sibanye-Stillwater is developing is a 50 MW solar PV project to provide electricity for its Kloof ultradeep level gold mine, in the Witwatersrand basin of Gauteng.

The plant is located in close proximity to Kloof, and will have a capital cost of about R1-billion.

“We’ve run a tender process and appointed a project developer. We’ve also executed most of the power purchase agreement (PPA) negotiations, and appointed an engineering, procurement and construction contractor.”

This project will be executed through a 20-year PPA on a build, own, transfer basis.

“We’d rather prioritise capital for strategic growth projects and leverage the lower cost green finance available in the market, especially from financiers that are willing to take a longer view in terms of payback. This enables us to access these projects with a limited capital outlay while gaining access to the low-cost energy and its environmental benefits from day one.”

He points out that Sibanye has long-life mining assets in South Africa and can support these projects through long-term contracts.

The project’s targeted commercial operation date is the end of 2024.

PGMs Operations

Sibanye-Stillwater is also progressing a range of solar energy projects with a combined capacity of 175 MW to power its PGMs operations.

This includes an 80 MW solar plant at its Rustenburg mines, a 65 MW solar plant at its Marikana K4 mine, and a 30 MW project for its Marikana smelter and base metals refinery, all in the North West.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s local operations use about 720 MW, of which 310 MW is used for its PGMs operations.

“The 175 MW of solar PV for PGMs operations has a capacity factor of around 27%, owing to the nature of the generation profile. When these projects are operational, they’ll offset around 17% of our PGMs operations’ power requirements from the grid,” says Martin.

All three projects are being developed concurrently. The environmental-impact assessments are under way, and the company has started liaising with local municipalities while conducting technical studies.

The company has also conducted preliminary engineering designs for the layouts for the connections into the grid, initiated the Eskom grid access process and conducted initial geotechnical work.

“We’ve also initiated an expression of interest to project developers that would be interested in developing these projects. We aim to reach financial close for these projects in the fourth quarter of next year. These projects will become commercially operational during 2025, with a 12- to 14-month construction and commissioning period.”

These projects will also be funded through third-party PPAs.

“We require that the projects, at minimum, have a historically disadvantaged local ownership component of at least 26%. There also needs to be a black economic- empowerment Level 4 score, as we’re also ensuring there’s local skills development, job creation and use of local content and services.

“Because we are also residents in these communities, we’re also aiming to maximise the synergies between these projects and our existing socioeconomic development projects.”

Martin adds that, in all of Sibanye-Stillwater’s embedded generation projects, the company is creating flexibility to “push power back into the power grid”, and wheel the said power among different operations so that there is no risk of them becoming “stranded assets”.

Further, the miner also has an operational 1.2 MW solar PV installation at its precious metals refinery operation on the East Rand, in Gauteng.

“These projects are part of our decarbonisation strategy to deliver our carbon neutrality by 2040. In the long term, we’re looking at the implementation of utility-scale energy storage to increase the renewable penetration of further projects.

“We’re also conducting case studies for using underground pumped hydro, lithium-ion battery or vanadium redox flow energy storage systems to increase renewable-energy penetration and help manage some of the operational disruptions caused by Eskom load curtailment,” he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor




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