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JSE- and NYSE-listed Gold Fields' board has approved the construction of a 40 MW solar plant at the South Deep mine at an estimated capital cost of R660-million.
This follows the granting of a licence for the project by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa on February 25.
The solar plant will generate more than 20% of the average electricity consumption of the mine.
It will comprise 116 000 solar panels and cover a 118 ha area – roughly the size of 200 soccer fields – on mine property.
The project will be funded from the mine's positive cash flows over the next two years.
The use of renewable distributed energy will translate into electricity cost savings of about R120-million a year.
South Deep is finalising procurement strategies and contractor criteria for the construction of the plant, which will begin during the second quarter of this year.
Gold Fields South Africa executive VP Martin Preece told participants in the virtual Energy & Mines Africa conference, on May 5, that construction would start in August and that the company was aiming to procure about 85% local content.
He noted that electricity contributed to about 93% of Gold Fields' carbon emissions.
He added that the company was excited about undertaking the project itself.
Gold Fields expects about 240 jobs to be created during the construction of the plant, while about 12 people will be required to operate the plant once it is operational.
"We are the first South African mine to build and operate our own solar plant of this scale. This will ensure greater reliability of power supply and reduce the cost of electricity, which currently makes up about 13% of the mine's operating costs.
"Importantly, it will reduce our carbon footprint by around 100 000 t/y of carbon dioxide, not only enhancing the sustainability of South Deep but also contributing to Gold Fields' long-term commitment to carbon neutrality," Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith comments.
The plant is expected to be commissioned during the second quarter of 2022.
Once operational, renewables will contribute about 22% of South Deep's electricity.
Overall, Gold Fields is planning for renewables to supply 30% of its energy needs by 2030.
By 2023, solar will contribute about 3% of the energy needs of the Salares Norte and Cerro Corona mine, in South America; while some solar capacity will also be implemented at the Tarkwa and Damang mines, in West Africa.
In Australia, where Gold Fields holds an interest the St Ives, Granny Smith, Gruyere and Agnew mines, solar will contribute 6% of the company's energy needs by 2023 and wind 7%.