4 March 2022 08:00, Johannesburg

The first photovoltaic (PV) solar plant to be completed and commissioned by a mining company in South Africa is on track to produce 100% steady-state power generation by May, says midtier gold producer Pan African Resources investor relations head Hethen Hira.

The PV plant is being built by Pan African Resources at its Evander Mines complex, in Mpumalanga.

Hira says renewable-energy specialists juwi Renewable Energies – the main contractor on the project – is expected to complete hot commissioning for 60% of the PV plant by the end of this month.

The mine will still rely on grid power because the initial 10 MW solar plant will provide only 30% of its required capacity.

“However, this alternate energy will allow for stability of supply, as well as a reduction in production costs in the future, which would counter the above-inflation price increases expected from the national power provider,” he adds.

In expectation of the PV plant’s positive impact, the company has started the feasibility work on extending Evander Mines’ solar facility by an estimated 12 MWac.

The additional PV panels will bring Evander Mines’ PV plant’s generation capacity to about 21.98 MWac from solar energy when in full operation, which will be used to complement the grid supply in terms of powering its expanding underground operations.

“As soon as the board approves the funding for the development, work on the extension will start without delay.”

Hira adds that the development will require a bigger area for additional solar panels, which Evander Mines can provide.

Going 100% Green

Hira stresses that Pan African will continue to look at ways of reducing emissions and synergies to reduce costs and, consequently, to optimise production from its portfolio of assets.

“Pan African’s medium- to long-term plans will include rehabilitation and alternate economic uses for land on which it has reprocessed historic tailings for the continued support of sustainable economies in the communities surrounding its operations.”

Additionally, the feasibility study for an 8 MWac solar plant at Barberton Mines, in Mpumalanga has been completed, and environmental permitting and design development are progressing well.

“Construction of Barberton Mines’ PV plant will start as soon as permitting is completed,” he enthuses.

Further, the company’s commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has developed and grown to such an extent that it is now “part of the fabric of Pan African, and central to all its actions”.

He adds that this is demonstrated by Pan African’s investments in renewable-energy projects, water recycling and land rehabilitation – including the reprocessing of historic tailings and repurposing the land for alternate use.

This is also evidenced by its investment in biodiversity conservation, including caring for orphaned rhinos, its contributions to the preservation of Barberton heritage sites and ecotourism, as well as large-scale agriculture project initiatives in managing the risk, impacts and opportunities in the ESG landscape.

Waterworks

Hira tells Mining Weekly that the group’s commitment to responsible and sustainable water use is embedded in its water management policy and water-use licences, which focus on efficiently using water through reuse and recycling.

“Following the successful bankable feasibility study for a water treatment plant for Evander Mines, and board approval, the treatment plant project started in November,” he says.

The environmental authorisation permits were submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in December, with regulatory approval pending, while the construction contract, with the select service provider, has been executed.

“The general design work and final engineering design were completed in January, and civils work is scheduled to start in June,” he says.

Hira notes that the installation and fitment of the water treatment plant will take place between June and September.

The plant will provide an average of 91-million litres of potable water a month, which is to be used by the Elikhulu Tailings Retreatment Facility, which is also located in the Evander complex.

Consequently, the Evander 8 Shaft and will no longer use municipal water.

Excess water could be supplied to the local municipality, subject to the required testing and approvals, he concludes. 

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