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GOLD Fields said it had approved the R660m construction of a 40MW solar plant at its South Deep mine in South Africa – a development that would generate about a fifth of the mine's average energy consumption.
"We are the first South African mine to build and operate our own solar plant of this scale," said Chris Griffith, CEO of Gold Fields in an announcement. The project will be funded from the mine's positive cash flows over the next two years, the group said.
Once commissioned, South Deep's solar plant will see total energy derived from renewables increase to 11% from 3% of total electricity consumption in 2020. It would also lower Gold Fields' carbon footprint by 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
A licence granting the construction of the solar plant was issued by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa on February 25. The plant will comprise 116,000 solar panels and cover a 118 hectare area roughly the size of 200 soccer fields, Gold Fields said.
The use of self-generated, renewable energy will translate into savings of around R120m on the cost of electricity a year.
"A broad range of stakeholders stand to benefit more from the mine's activities," said Griffith. "A profitable mine and a sustainable business can continue to employ and develop employees, contribute to community development, support the livelihoods of local suppliers and add to the fiscus in the form of taxes and royalties," he said.
About 240 jobs will be created during the construction phase, while a team of 12 people will be required to operate the plant once operational.