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Anglo American Platinum selects preferred supplier to build 100MW solar plant at Limpopo mine

(Photos: Unsplash / Markus Spiske | Nuno Marques | Ricardo Gomez | Shane Mclendon)

Another ray of sunshine has emerged in the South African mining sector’s green energy drive.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) on Wednesday announced it has selected the Pele Green Energy–EDF Renewables South Africa consortium as the preferred supplier to build a 100MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant at its cash-spinning Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo.  

Amplats is a unit of Anglo American, which has a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. South African companies can now build self-generation units of up to 100MW to reduce their reliance on unreliable Eskom and move the needle away from coal, a fossil fuel linked to climate change. And at Limpopo latitudes there is no shortage of sunshine. 

Pele Green Energy is a leading independent power producer, while Amplats said EDF Renewables South Africa “has global expertise in renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar PV and battery storage”. 

There are other environmental dividends at play here aside from cutting the industrial umbilical cords to the belching coal plants of Eskom, which a new report has found to be the most polluting power company in the world

“We are particularly excited about the prospect of using plentiful solar energy to produce green hydrogen at Mogalakwena, as part of a broader project to convert our mine haul trucks to run on zero emission hydrogen fuel cells,” Amplats CEO Natascha Viljoen said in a statement. 

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of next year, with the aim for the plant to be turning sunshine into power by the end of 2023. The company did not disclose the costs, but it is a fresh investment in South Africa’s mining sector, which has not exactly seen a wave of capital expenditure from the current commodities boom. 

Other mining companies, such as Gold Fields, are also busy building solar capacity in the wake of the removal of some of the regulatory hindrances to such projects. 

Amplats said that it “has included a 10% free carry [no requirement to contribute equity capital for the shares] equity ownership into the consortium that will build, own and operate the facility for the life of the plant. This is designed to result in dividends attributable directly to our host communities over time.” 

This is important. Mogalakwena is a cash-spinner of note and Amplats has posted record earnings on the back of record prices. Mogalakwena has also in the past been a flashpoint of social unrest stirred by nearby communities who felt they were not receiving adequate benefit from the operation. Bringing a dividend stream for host communities from the project, which will also obviously create jobs, is a crucial part of the package.  

“We need to accelerate our journey to decarbonisation, connect even more with our host communities, while working to reduce costs and improve productivity,” Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said on Wednesday at the online Joburg Mining Indaba, organised by Resources4Africa. 

This 100MW solar project near the Tropic of Capricorn seems to tick all of those boxes. DM/OBP 

Absa OBP

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