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The mining house, Gold Fields Limited, which owns the South Deep mine, will be the first in the area to put up its own solar electricity plant.
The mining house announced on Wednesday, 5 May that its board of directors had given the green light for the construction of a 40MW solar plant at South Deep. This follows the granting of a licence by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa on 25 February 2021.
The 40MW solar plant will gene-rate over 20 per cent 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, and will be on the mine property.
The estimated capital investment for the plant is R660m, including contingencies and escalation. This would be funded from the mine's positive cash-flows over the next two years. The use of self-generated, renewable energy will translate into savings of around R120m in the cost of electricity per year. South Deep is currently finalising procurement strategies and contractor criteria for the construction of the plant, which will begin in the second quarter of this year. The plant is expected to be commissioned during the same quarter.
"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 per cent of the mine's operating costs," says Gold Fields' CEO, Chris Griffith.
"Importantly, it will reduce our carbon footprint by around 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, not only enhancing the sustainability of South Deep but also contributing to Gold Fields' long-term commitment to carbon neutrality," Griffith adds.
During 2020, renewable electricity averaged three per cent of Gold Fields Group's electricity. Once the South Deep project is commissioned, renewable's contribution to the group total will rise to about 11 per cent. Altogether, 240 jobs will be created during the construction phase, while a team of 12 will be required to operate the plant once operational. As far as possible, goods and services required to build the plant will be sourced from South Africa.