Zimbabwe platinum miner granted licence to generate 185 MW of solar power

Zimplats CEO Alex Mhembere
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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Zimbabwe platinum group metals mining company Zimplats has been granted a licence to generate 185 MW, which incorporates the generation of its own solar power.

Zimplats is already totally green through the use of hydropower and the solar power will enhance the position of the company and enhance its security of supply, Zimplats CEO Alex Mhembere said in response to Mining Weekly during Tuesday’s Impala Platinum (Implats) media briefing, after debt-free Implats delivered half-year free cash flow generation of R15.1-billion for the six months ended December 31.

The $37-million first-phase solar plant will have a capacity of 35 MW, with commissioning scheduled during the 2024 financial year. Further phased expansion is under study.

“We should be able to go to tender in the next few weeks,” said Mhembere of the solar project, which had, he added, already received board approval from both Implats and Zimplats.

Mhembere expressed the hope that the project would be completed in 18 months and expedite the balancing of the solar and hydro power supplies.

Zimplats was given the go-ahead for a $521-million smelter expansion project and a R496-million base metals refinery project and acid plant commissioning, and the 185 MW will provide enough clean, green energy for the total operational requirements during the day and rely on utility-sourced hydropower at night.

Regarding renewables developments by Implats in South Africa, Implats CEO Nico Muller conceded that Implats was not at the same level of readiness as Zimplats.

“We are evaluating a number of projects. The one that is standing out is the Marula project for 10 MW but as far as the rest are concerned, they are probably in the process of being evaluated.

Implats executive sustainable development Dr Tsakani Mthombeni said that Implats had a number of studies with Marula entering a feasibility stage.

Mthombeni added that recent encouraging pronouncements in South Africa would allow more to be done in South Africa as well.

Muller said the strategy would be twofold, the first being collaboration with the rest of the industry and the government, to get government to commit to an increased proportional share of green energy in the total energy mix provided by the national energy provider.

“Given the dispensation for us to go up to 100 MW plants, we are evaluating options for all of our operations but they are probably not at a stage where we are able to commit in terms of specific projects, costs and timelines,” said Muller.

Mthombeni pointed out that the company had made a commitment to aim for carbon neutrality by 2050, while working the pathway back to 2030, with gas energy positioning the company to start transitioning to green hydrogen usage.

Muller described Implats as being aware that electrification and green hydrogen were two evolving technology streams and that the company was learning as it advanced, taking note of its impact and adapting the strategies of the company to suit future world requirements.

In response to an analyst’s question on the impact of the change in carbon tax, Implats CFO Meroonisha Kerber said the increase in the carbon tax impact for the company in the next few years would range from R20-million to R30-million.

“The issue is really around when they start removing the rebates, and also if Eskom is allowed to push through the carbon taxes to us. That should increase the carbon tax significantly that we’re going to pay,” said Kerber.

“As a group, we are looking at moving to renewables and you’ve seen what we’re doing in Zimbabwe. We’re busy looking at renewables for Marula, and we’re looking at different options for Rustenburg, and also our refineries.

“The way is for us to not only manage the cost but also on our journey towards carbon neutrality, we definitely are going to move towards more of our energy being derived from renewables,” said Kerber.

The next phase would be transitioning to green hydrogen.

Implats closed the period to December 31 with net cash of R18.5-billion.


Source: Mining Weekly