By Staff Reporter
HARARE – Caledonia Mining Corporation giant, which owns 64% stake in Blanket Mine in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, spent about US$22.7 million on power consumption in the last three years but now shifts focus to renewable energy for an uninterrupted power supply and reduced costs.
The world is going through profound change in energy and renewable energy has moved to the centre-stage of the global energy landscape.
In its social and governance report, the miner said 19% of its on-mine costs relate to energy usage. So any reductions in the cost have both environmental benefits as well as clear financial advantages.
Blanket Mine uses electricity to power most of the underground equipment and to hoist ore, waste and employees to surface. Electricity is also used to run the metallurgical plant.
As a way to augment power suppliers, the miner is constructing a 12 MWac solar farm which will be operational in early 2022. It will exclusively supply Blanket with about 27% of its daily electricity usage.
Power requirements are expected to more than double in the next few years in line with the country’s ambitious plan to raise mining output and earn the country US$12 billion a year.
Players in the mining industry signed and prepaid in forex dedicated contracts with ZESA for electricity supply.
The country recorded a decline in production on its key minerals in 2019 reflective of the economic turmoil of the year past, which was characterised by the return of high inflation, a rapidly depreciating local currency and serious energy supply problems.
Zimbabwe’s installed electricity generating capacity is about 2 210 MW, of which 1 050 MW is from the Kariba South hydro power station and the balance is derived from several coal-fired power stations, the largest of which is Hwange, with installed capacity of 920 MW. In recent years, Zimbabwe’s actual generating capacity has been lower than the installed capacity due to low water levels at Kariba and lack of maintenance at the power stations.
The gold miner said despite the use of imported power, the availability of electricity in Zimbabwe has been subject to “load-shedding”. On top of that, it revealed that the grid power in Zimbabwe is subject to fluctuations in voltage which, if unregulated, damage end-users’ equipment.
“Load-shedding and outages arising from unstable supply has economic and safety implications for an underground mine such as Blanket and we have therefore installed 18 MVA of standby diesel generators to enable uninterrupted mining and processing operations, as well as work on capital projects to continue during any disruptions to the grid supply.
“However, we recognise that this is not a long-term solution: diesel-generated electricity is expensive and subject to an unpredictable supply of diesel, as well as being environmentally unsustainable,” reads the report.
The company’s diesel consumption increased by 41% in 2020 due to the generator running-time increasing as a result of a deterioration in the grid supply.
Recognising the economic, environmental and logistical challenges of running large-scale diesel generators for extended periods, Caledonia is constructing a 12 MWac solar plant at a cost of $12 million, with an additional $2 million for expenses which includes; designs, tender process, obtaining licenses and site clearance.
Blanket will continue to rely on the grid and generators to provide additional power during daylight hours and at night.
“Battery power is currently too expensive to justify its use to augment the solar plant, but the Company will continue to monitor this situation as battery technology develops,” reads part of the report.
“The Company will also evaluate a further phase for the solar project to provide Blanket’s peak demand during daylight hours, but this will require an agreement between the Company and the Zimbabwe authorities regarding the treatment of power that will be generated by a second phase that is surplus to Blanket’s requirements.
Experts say governments can play an enabling role by promoting and implementing policy interventions to enable this acceleration. These could be linked to related actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment and promote the growth of the green economy. – Economic Times-
By Staff Reporter