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Northam Launches Solar Farm, Eyes Wind Power Expansion

Renewable Energy Projects Power Up Limpopo Mine

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe
Northam Renewable Energy Projects

Northam Platinum, a leader in the platinum group metals (PGMs) mining industry, has embarked on an innovative journey towards sustainability by initiating the construction of an 80 MW solar power farm at its Zondereinde operation in Limpopo. This move, accompanied by plans to establish a significant wind farm in the Western Cape by year’s end, marks a significant step towards renewable energy adoption in the mining sector. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company is making strides in reducing its carbon footprint and enhancing energy security amidst South Africa’s ongoing power challenges.

Zondereinde mine, located approximately 30 km south of Thabazimbi, sprawls over 9,257 hectares, providing ample space for the solar farm. This renewable energy project aims to supply electricity directly to the mine and its metallurgical complex, bypassing the Eskom meter. Northam is collaborating with an independent power producer for the funding, construction, and management of this solar installation, demonstrating a partnership model for renewable energy projects in the mining industry.

In addition to solar power, Northam has taken proactive measures to ensure uninterrupted operations during Eskom’s load curtailment conditions. The company boasts 22 MW of on-demand power generation capacity from diesel generators and is in the process of installing an additional 35 MW of diesel capacity. This expansion, set to be commissioned by the end of the third quarter, will safeguard Northam’s operations against stage 6 loadshedding, highlighting the company’s commitment to operational resilience.

Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne elaborated on the company’s energy strategy during a media briefing, emphasizing the importance of speed and ease in mitigating loadshedding risks through diesel generation. While acknowledging the sub-optimal carbon footprint of diesel generators compared to renewable sources, Dunne pointed out their modern, efficient design, which results in a lower carbon output per kilowatt-hour than the average Eskom fleet. This pragmatic approach underlines Northam’s commitment to maintaining production while transitioning to greener energy solutions.

The company’s forward-looking energy strategy includes a significant investment in wind power, with plans for a large wind farm in the Western Cape nearing finalization. Despite the fluctuating costs associated with wind technology, Northam remains dedicated to incorporating wind energy into its portfolio, driven by the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy sources.

Northam’s efforts to minimize its environmental impact extend beyond energy initiatives. The company is a significant producer of metals essential for a more sustainable world and continuously seeks ways to reduce its environmental footprint. Northam’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in its water conservation efforts, recycling more than 86% of the water it uses and significantly reducing the water volume needed per ounce of saleable metal over the past decade.

The establishment of the De Berg Nature Reserve, part of Northam’s conservancy trust initiative at the Booysendal PGMs mine, further exemplifies the company’s dedication to environmental stewardship. This reserve has gained recognition as South Africa’s thirtieth Ramsar wetland of international importance, showcasing Northam’s role in preserving critical ecosystems.

With solid financial foundations, including R11.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents and R11 billion in undrawn banking facilities, Northam is well-positioned to continue its sustainable growth trajectory. The company’s recent declaration of an interim cash dividend of 100c a share underscores its financial health and commitment to delivering value to shareholders.

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