African mining CEOs on the transition to renewable energy for mines

African mining CEOs on the transition to renewable energy for mines

Transitioning to low-carbon and an increased focus on ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) is a global trend and the African mining sector is no exception.

Mining companies across the continent are committing to ambitious climate and decarbonisation goals that have created new urgency for integrating low-carbon, alternative technologies to meet these targets. Indeed, later this month senior mining leaders are presenting their renewable energy strategies to mining peers and alternative energy experts at the Energy and Mines Africa Virtual Summit, Feb 22-23.

Chris Griffith, CEO of Gold Fields, will be presenting on “ESG, Climate and Energy Priorities.” As he said in a recent interview: “ESG now impacts all our operational decisions, with energy strategies an obvious focus. When Gold Fields started on its climate change journey in 2016, the key considerations were energy supply security and costs.” Now, along with many others across the sector, Gold Fields is signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement and as such needs to deliver emissions reductions. The company has committed to 50% absolute emissions reductions by 2030 (and net-zero by 2050).

“How do we get to 50% absolute emissions savings by 2030, given that approximately 2/3rd of our emissions are linked to our electricity usage, with the South Deep mine in South Africa by far the highest emitter in the company?” questioned Griffith. “In South Africa we expect to have about a quarter of South Deep’s power provided by a 50 MW solar plant later this year. Apart from delivering significant cost savings it will achieve emission savings of 109kt CO2.”

Gold Fields is one of the many mining companies declaring climate commitments and investing in renewables. There have been at least 10 such announcements in the last six months.

“Similar to where Australia was 2-3 years ago, 2021 was an inflection point in Africa where the discussion in board rooms is now how much renewable energy should we deploy, not “if”,” according to Peter Drager, Head of Development – Hybrid and Offgrid – EMEA at juwi Renewable Energies. Juwi is involved in 11 off-grid mining projects in Australia and Africa and has many others under development. “Even in locations such as Senegal where the HFO price is quite low, renewable energy projects such as Eramet’s Grande Cote Operations site can obtain meaningful amounts of decarbonization while providing the lowest cost energy solution,” says Drager.

Peter Drager, Head of Development – Hybrid and Offgrid – EMEA at juwi Renewable Energies. Image credit: Energy and Mines

It’s not only remote mining operations that are deploying renewable technologies. Martin Schlecht of independent power advisor Suntrace explains: “South Africa is struggling from the unreliability of Eskom’s power supply and load shedding. They’re a threat to operations. So, South Africa actually is a specific case where renewables for mines are also gaining traction not only because of decarbonisation but also from an energy security perspective,”

Martin Schlecht of independent power advisor Suntrace 

Mid-tier miner Pan African Resources operates all of its mines in South Africa and is seeking to control operational costs and reduce its climate impact as CEO Cobus Loots outlined in a recent Energy and Mines interview. “Energy consumption accounts for 30% of our total production costs and feasibility studies have demonstrated that power generation through solar PV plants will reduce these significantly, while at the same time addressing production downtime as a result of power disruptions from the grid.”

Pan African has a 10 MW solar power plant commissioned for its Evander operations in 2022 with plans to expand to 26 MW. They are also undertaking a feasibility study for a 10 MW project at their Baberton mine. “The solar plants are seen as a positive on our path to decarbonisation and reducing GHG emissions, with the added benefit of securing a stable power supply for our operations and cost savings in the medium to long term, which will improve shareholder returns through reduced production costs,” said Loots.

Cobus Loots, CEO of mid-tier miner Pan African Resources

Driven by demonstrable cost savings, security of supply and the increased focus on ESG the power shift to renewables for African mines is a major trend. Mining leaders will be joined by global renewable energy, energy storage, green hydrogen and finance experts to discuss energy savings, renewables integration and decarbonisation opportunities and challenges for African mining companies on February 22-23 at Energy and Mines Africa Virtual Summit.

The Summit will showcase the mining companies leading the transition to low-carbon, sustainable mining operations in Africa and address key questions around how mines assess renewable energy options and analyze the commercial structure of these projects. It also explores how renewable energy goals are aligned with ESG, climate and sustainability goals for African mining companies.

African mining CEOs on the transition to renewable energy for mines

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