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Mining gold through solar generation

South Africa’s largest producing gold mine announced that it will be developing a ZAR3 billion ($257 million) solar power farm to reduce its dependency on the national grid.

According to CEO of Sibanye Gold, Neal Froneman, the power plant will have a generation capacity of 150MW, CNBC Africa reported.

“You have to put it in perspective [:] 20% of our [Sibanye Gold] costs are related to electricity.  It’s the second biggest single cost and labour is at 55%, so 75% of our costs in the gold sector are related to labour and electricity. Quite honestly, in many respects, you are dependent on something you can’t really control. The 150MW that may come with the solar initiative is going to cost about [ZAR] 3 billion [$257 million]”, Froneman said.Sibanye Gold mine

By generating 10% of the mine’s energy needs from solar generated power, Froneman believes they could eventually become completely off-grid.

“That’s probably the ultimate position. It’s not an anti-South African position. I think it’s contributing to the solution and not the problem but certainly, if we talk about independent power producers and perhaps something bigger, we would just like access to the amounts of energy we use in the form of an independent power producer”, Froneman commented.

With the potential to become self-reliant, Sibanye is undecided whether to feed excess power back into the national grid or not.Sibanye Gold

“Would we want to make a profit out if it?  It’s not really our core business and we have to be careful that we’re not distracted into areas that take our focus off our core business”, Froneman said.

Mines utilising solar power in South Africa

Company/Mine Location kW Type
Chronimet Chrome Thaba mine Limpopo Province 1000 Grid tied
Anglo American: Goedehoop Mpumalanga 553 Grid tied
Anglo American: thermal coal colliery Kriel 1 Mpumalanga 240 Grid tied
Anglo American :thermal coal colliery Kriel 2 Mpumalanga 120 Grid tied
Anglo American: Highveld hospital Witbank 105 Grid tied
Anglo American: Greenside colliery Middleburg 90 Grid tied


(Pic Credits: Sibanye Gold)

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.