The Iamgold Essakane gold mine is one of the most recent mines in Africa to capitalise on the potential benefits and cost-savings to be made by introducing a renewable element to their mining activities.
Located in the north-east of Burkina Faso, the Iamgold mine began commercial production in July 2010, producing 400 000 oz of gold in 2015.
Supplementing the mine’s gold production, in early March 2017 a power purchase agreement with a fifteen year tenor was signed between the mine, EREN Renewable Energy and its partner African Energy Management Platform (AEMP) which will reduce diesel usage at the off-grid mine as well as bringing down its carbon footprint.
For mining operations where the primary source of fuel is diesel - the cost of which is dictated by the price of oil - the ability to secure a portion of the fuel at a known cost for a defined period of time and simultaneously reduce the mine’s carbon footprint has clear benefits.
This, coupled with decreases in the cost of solar modules throughout the course of 2016, has led to a notable interest in the solar-diesel hybrid power solution. Hybrids have been used in Western Australia, the cutting-edge installation designed for the DeGrussa copper and gold mine and developed by the Juwi Group being a prime example. Many believe they have the potential to be implemented on a widespread basis throughout Africa. Savings can be particularly felt at remote mines, which typically have higher fuel costs, partly due to transportation and logistics.
Juwi Renewables Energies (based in South Africa) has watched the development of the DeGrussa mine with interest, sharing the view that the solar-diesel hybrid structure would benefit mines in Africa. Juwi’s managing director, Greg Austin, was quoted in Mining Weekly: “Solar/diesel hybrid systems are currently considered state-of-the-art for microgrids and off-grid applications, delivering the lowest overall cost of power, while guaranteeing power availability around the clock and, at the same time, reducing the fuel bill by around 25%.”
The Essakane mine is one such example. Following signature of the fifteen-year power purchase agreement, a 15 MWp, US$20m solar PV plant is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2017 on-site at the mine, selling its electricity to the mine. It is anticipated to reduce the mine’s consumption of diesel by six-million litres a year and carbon dioxide emissions by 18 500 t a year.
Once completed, the Essakane hybrid solar-diesel power solution will be one of the largest of its kind in the world, marking a significant milestone for both the renewable energy and the mining industry. The hope is that this will pave the way for other similar mines in Africa to follow suit.