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South African Mines Embrace Solar Power, Prioritize Local Procurement

Mining Sector's Shift to Green Energy Boosts Local Economy

by Adenike Adeodun

In the face of South Africa’s persistent energy crisis, many mines are pivoting towards renewable energy solutions, with a significant focus on developing independent solar power ventures. This shift is not only a testament to the sector’s adaptability but also underscores a broader commitment to sustainability amidst legislative changes that now permit the development of energy plants up to one hundred megawatts with minimal bureaucratic hurdles.

David Sullivan, Divisional CEO at LH Marthinusen within the ACTOM Group, highlights that these mining operations, often located on expansive, undevelopable land, are uniquely positioned to harness solar energy efficiently. With some entities already breaking ground on construction and others in the tendering phase with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies, the move towards solar is gaining momentum.

Yet, this journey toward greener energy sources brings to the forefront the critical importance of local procurement—a factor that, if overlooked, could undermine the long-term success and sustainability of these initiatives. The engagement of EPC companies, driven by budget constraints and the primary goal of establishing operational solar plants, often leads to a prioritization of cost over quality and sustainability. This approach risks sidelining the potential benefits of sourcing materials and expertise locally, particularly when it comes to components like transformers, switchgear, and substation equipment that are readily available from local suppliers at competitive prices and with the added advantage of after-sales support.

The implications of opting for cheaper, imported products can be far-reaching, affecting not just the operational efficiency and reliability of solar plants but also their long-term return on investment. Issues such as damage during transit, premature failures, and the absence of local after-sales service underscore the false economy of prioritizing upfront cost savings over quality and sustainability.

Furthermore, the choice to engage local suppliers and labor transcends mere economic transactions, embedding the mines deeper into the fabric of their surrounding communities. This not only fosters economic growth and job creation but also enhances the social well-being of residents, reinforcing the mines’ roles as responsible corporate citizens. Such initiatives resonate with the principles of the Just Energy Transition (JET), advocating for a sustainable shift to renewable energy sources while emphasizing carbon emission reduction and social responsibility.

As the mining sector continues to explore and expand its renewable energy capabilities, the emphasis on local procurement emerges as a linchpin for ensuring the success and sustainability of these ventures. It is a strategy that not only addresses the immediate needs of energy reliability and cost-effectiveness but also considers the broader socio-economic impact, including job creation, skills development, and community engagement. In doing so, mines have the opportunity to lead by example, demonstrating how the industry can contribute to South Africa’s energy solution while simultaneously bolstering the economy and nurturing the communities that surround them.

In conclusion, as South Africa’s mines embark on this green transition, the focus must remain on leveraging local resources and expertise. This approach not only ensures the resilience and sustainability of solar power projects but also contributes to a more equitable and prosperous future for the communities that these mines serve. The collective responsibility to support local procurement and empower local suppliers thus becomes not just a matter of economic pragmatism but a cornerstone of sustainable development and community stewardship in the face of ongoing energy challenges.


Source: Mining Review

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