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Platinum Mines to Benefit from R25bn Solar Project in North West

A massive solar power project is set to provide clean energy to platinum mines in the North West province of South Africa

by Motoni Olodun

A massive solar power project is set to provide clean energy to platinum mines in the North West province of South Africa, boosting their productivity and sustainability.

The project, which is worth R25 billion ($1.7 billion), is being developed by a consortium of local and international companies led by the South African Renewable Energy Fund (SAREF).

The consortium has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Impala Platinum, one of the world’s largest platinum producers, to supply electricity to its operations in the province.

The project will consist of four solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, with a combined capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) and a battery storage system of 240 megawatt-hours (MWh).

The solar plants will be located in the Rustenburg, Brits, and Thabazimbi areas, where Impala Platinum has mines and processing facilities.

The project is expected to create about 3,000 jobs during construction, which will start in early 2024 and last two years. It will also generate about 1,200 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of clean energy per year, enough to power about 200,000 households.

The project will help Impala Platinum reduce its carbon footprint and dependence on the national grid, which is often plagued by load shedding and rising tariffs. It will also enhance the company’s competitiveness, profitability, and social and environmental responsibility.

Impala Platinum CEO Mark Munroe said the project was a milestone for the company and the platinum industry.

“This is a game-changer for us. It will enable us to secure reliable and affordable power for our operations while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

He added that the project aligned with the company’s vision of being a leading producer of platinum group metals (PGMs), essential for various applications such as catalytic converters, fuel cells, and hydrogen production.

“We are proud to be part of this project, which will not only benefit our business but also contribute to the development of the renewable energy sector and the communities in which we operate,” he said.

SAREF CEO Nthabiseng Kubheka said the project was a testament to the potential of renewable energy in South Africa and the region.

“We are delighted to partner with Impala Platinum and our consortium members to deliver this landmark project, which will be one of the largest solar PV projects in Africa,” she said.

She said the project would showcase renewable energy solutions’ technical and financial viability for large-scale industrial customers, especially in the mining sector.

“We believe that this project will pave the way for more renewable energy projects in the mining industry, which is a key driver of economic growth and social development in South Africa and beyond,” she said.

The consortium members include SAREF, which is a black-owned fund that invests in renewable energy projects; ACWA Power, which is a leading developer and operator of power and water plants in Africa, Asia, and Europe; SolAfrica Energy, which is a black-owned renewable energy company; Pele Green Energy, which is a black-owned independent power producer; and STOA Infra & Energy, which is a French investment vehicle that focuses on infrastructure and energy projects in emerging markets.

The project has also received support from various stakeholders, such as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, Eskom, local municipalities, and community organizations.

The project is part of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which aims to diversify the country’s energy mix and attract private sector investment in renewable energy.

The REIPPPP has been hailed as one of the world’s most successful renewable energy programs, having procured over 6,000 MW of renewable energy capacity from 112 projects since its inception in 2011.

The program has also contributed to job creation, socio-economic development, black empowerment, and environmental protection.

The solar project in North West is expected to be one of the flagship projects under the REIPPPP’s fifth bidding round, which was launched in March this year and attracted over 100 bids from local and international developers.

The final selection of preferred bidders for this round is expected to be announced by the end of this year.

Source: mining weekly 

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