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Gold Fields has been given a given the green light by the energy regulator to develop a 40MW solar plant in Westonaria, it was announced on Thursday.
The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said it has granted a licence to a to GFI Joint Venture Holdings and Gold Fields to develop the facility on the mine's South Deep operation, after the company first made an application in 2017.
The solar plant is expected to provide around 20% of the South Deep gold mine's average electricity consumption and enable the mine to reduce carbon emissions.
The regulator rejected reports that it had delayed the processing of the application, saying the slowdown was due to compliance issue with the requirements of the Electricity Regulation Act. Challenges associated with reliable power supply is one of the key issues impacting the mining sector, as Eskom, which supplies the bulk of the electricity used in the country, battles capacity constraints.
Companies have been increasingly exploring self-generation in a bid to mitigate the impact of power interruption and rising tariffs.
In 2020, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe granted approval for deviation from the Integrated Resource Plan for self-generation projects of any capacity.
Nersa said it was after this development that the Joint Venture submitted a compliant application in June 2020.
Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said the plant would increase the reliability and affordability of power supply to South Deep, and enhance the mine's long-term sustainability.
"The approval of this licence sends a strong, positive message to mining companies and their investors, potentially leading to decisions being taken to sustain and grow mining operations in the country, especially in deep-level, underground, marginal mines," he said.
He added that self-generation would allow Eskom room to address operational issues at its power plants.
Eskom has been implementing load shedding due to unexpected breakdowns at its power stations, putting an additional strain on the struggling economy.