Southern Africa bets on green energy
By Leon Louw owner and editor of WhyAfrica
Southern Africa is in a unique position to become a green energy hub and alternative supplier of energy. The current geopolitical turmoil puts the region in a strong position to gain first mover advantage as Europe and the rest of the world frantically attempts to diversify its energy needs away from an unhealthy reliance on Russian fossil fuels. The challenge though, according to Natacha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo-American Platinum, is to collaborate and take advantage of the current momentum to create demand for Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and battery minerals, of which there are an abundance in Africa.
Viljoen was speaking at the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba that kicked off in Cape Town yesterday. Last week, Anglo American Platinum showcased a prototype of the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck designed to operate in everyday mining conditions at its Mogalakwena PGM open pit mine in South Africa.
The 2MW hydrogen-battery hybrid truck, generating more power than its diesel predecessor and capable of carrying a 290-tonne payload, is part of Anglo American’s nuGen Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS). nuGen provides a fully integrated green hydrogen system, consisting of production, fuelling and haulage system, with green hydrogen to be produced at the mine site.
South Africa and its northern neighbour Namibia are shaping up to become world leaders in green hydrogen technology within the next five years. In addition to its green hydrogen ambitions, South Africa is also the largest producer of PGMs, while Zimbabwe is the third largest supplier, with Russia in second place. PGMs are used in the manufacturing of diesel catalytic converters which are critical in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Green energy a popular theme
The green energy revolution was a popular theme on the first day of Indaba. Despite the challenges Southern Africa are up against in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, the mood was upbeat as Gwede Mantashe, South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, lauded Anglo for its role in an imminent energy transition.
“I hope to see more of these hydrogen trucks in the future. In fact, we need to deploy larger fleets of these trucks. Mining is a sunrise industry in Southern Africa, not a sunset industry. Moreover, there are huge deposits of copper and cobalt in Zambia and the DRC, and an abundance of green minerals in the rest of the region and in Africa. What we need is more exploration and to reconstruct our ports and railway and freight infrastructure,” said Mantashe.
Africa needs to invest in exploration
The need to invest in exploration was echoed by Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia in his address. Hichilema said that African leaders need to step up and eliminate conflict and corruption and enable mining companies to unearth the rich resources hosted in countries like Zambia and the DRC. “Conflict and corruption hinder investment and to deliver social and economic growth we need to eliminate these impediments,” he said. “We are determined to create jobs and industrialise and will clear all obstacles in our way. We won’t tolerate corruption and will continue to partner with the private sector in building Zambia’s economy,” said Hichilema.
Zambia hosts massive deposits of copper, cobalt and nickel, all needed in battery technology which will drive a worldwide energy transition. In his address following Hichilema’s speech, Tristan Pascal, CEO of First Quantum Minerals, announced that the Canadian headquartered company will invest significantly in the expansion of its Kansanshi copper mine in the north of the country to extend the life of mine with more than 20 years. The company further committed to invest substantial capital in the development of a new nickel mine in the north-east of the country.
With its abundance of sun and wind, the Kalahari landscape of Namibia and Botswana is attracting more and more renewable energy investors, while its gas and cobalt/copper/nickel deposits are receiving global attention. According to Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi the country wants to foster partnerships with the private sector and ensure security of tenure, a stable regulatory environment, and a predictable fiscal regime. “Exploration companies should consider coming to Botswana. We are continuing to map and explore the Kalahari sands, and with the energy transition imminent, we are well positioned to take advantage of the future demand for battery minerals,” said Masisi.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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