JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Gold mining and exploration company Harmony Gold is intensifying its efforts to cut electricity consumption to a minimum while also looking at introducing solar power and biofuel energy.
CEO Peter Steenkamp said on Tuesday when the company issued its half-year results that Eskom’s problems could have the negative impact of shortening the lives of some of its energy-intensive mines and eliminating jobs if its huge tariff increases were approved by the regulator. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).
In the meantime, Harmony is not sitting on its laurels: “We have drastically reduced our consumption of electricity,” Steenkamp said.
What the company is doing in the near-term is scheduling its hoisting and milling in operations where it has redundancy.
It clips its consumption load where catch-up is possible later and has also put technologies in place to enable the company to deliver ventilation, refrigeration and water services on demand and not around the clock, as old mine designs allowed.
“A lot of effort is going in from an operational excellence point of view to limit the amount of services used and then, in turn, reduce electricity consumption,” Harmony COO South Africa Beyers Nel explained to Mining Weekly Online.
But what the company has not done yet is to self-generate its own power supply, but that may be about to change.
Harmony sustainable development executive Melanie Naidoo-Vermaak revealed that the company has just gone out on procurement for a 30 MW solar plant in Welkom, Free State.
Electricity represents 16% of Harmony’s total operational costs, which is why the company has placed so much emphasis on reducing electricity consumption, and now also on environmental protection.
To that end, for the last two years the company has been working on the solar project.
“We’ve gone through the procurement process and we have now managed to bed down a developer and an investor in a 30 MW solar power facility for Welkom, which will then relieve some of our dependency on Eskom,” Naidoo-Vermaak told Mining Weekly Online.
The 30 MW will provide electricity to the company’s long-life assets, predominantly the Phakisa gold mining operations, as well as some of its pumping shafts.
From a cost perspective, solar presents a business case in competing with Eskom.
“Once construction is complete, solar will come in at below Eskom prices,” she said.
The company is also looking to growing energy crops for biofuels in some of the mined-out areas as part of its rehabilitation initiatives.
“There certainly is merit in converting mine-impacted land to energy crop land. That we’ve successfully done. Getting the technology in place to translate that bio into energy has been a little more challenging and I think it’s simply because South Africa does not have sufficient capability, so we’ve been looking afield for expertise to support us.
“We’re very close to cracking this one and once we do that and finesse this pilot initiative, then we’ll look at opportunities for extending it,” Naidoo-Vermaak added to Mining Weekly Online.