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Opportunity Issue 103

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  • Mining
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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

Mining companies are

Mining companies are becoming power generators Anglo American’s hydrogen-powered truck is a sign of the cleaner power that mining companies are striving for. Credit: Anglo American Supply constraints and the need to go green are driving innovation in powering mining operations. By John Young One truck. That’s all it was, one truck. But what a truck it was! Anglo American announced on 6 May 2022 that it had unveiled “a prototype of the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck designed to operate in everyday mining conditions at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine in South Africa”. The unveiling of the vehicle was a significant event for mining and for the energy landscape and is one of many indicators that mining companies are taking an increased interest in power generation in South Africa, Africa and around the world. This interest has manifested in many ways and was stimulated by the announcement by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa that the limit on the size of private projects that did not need to apply for licences would be lifted to 100MW. This increase in capacity makes investing in a bespoke energy plant a much more viable economic proposition. Mining companies have been quick to respond. The first two 100MW solar PV projects to receive the approval of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) are being built for mining company Tronox Mineral Sands by the Sola Group and partners. The R3.2-billion project is in the Ditsobotla Local Municipality in the North West. Ivanhoe Mines has purchased a stake in Renergen, owner and developer of a liquified-natural gas (LNG) and helium project showing great promise in the Free State. Ivanhoe has the exclusive right to negotiate offtake rights with Renergen for gas to use at its 16 | www.opportunityonline.co.za

MINING AND POWER Platreef mining operations, where a 5MW solar project is also under construction. Resources company Exxaro started taking an interest in renewable energy generation more than a decade ago. The company established a wholly-owned energy subsidiary, Cennergi, and that company commissioned two wind farms in the Eastern Cape, Amakhala Emoyeni near Bedford (134MW) and the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm (95MW). Cennergi Services manages these assets plus a further nine solar PV sites. Exxaro announced in 2021 that Cennergi is developing the 70MW Lephalale Solar Project that will supply renewable energy to the Grootegeluk Complex, the integrated coal operations owned by Exxaro Coal. The press release that accompanied the Exxaro announcement about Lephalale referenced the company’s “Powering a Clean World” strategy and its ambitions to lead South Africa’s mining sector in the energy transition to a low-carbon economy. The release went on: “Cennergi is currently investigating bespoke renewable energy solutions for Exxaro’s remaining mining operations and those of several third parties.” Finding new uses for platinum is one of the new priorities exercising the minds of the leaders of the mining industry as it moves to adapt to a world which is moving away from fossil fuels. Platinum coating greatly enhances the hydrogen absorption capacity of fuel cells. In 2016 Impala Platinum Refinery unveiled a fuel cell forklift and a hydrogen refuelling station in Springs. Research at that facility is ongoing. The head office of the Minerals Council South Africa in Johannesburg is powered by 40 ounces of platinum and natural gas, South Africa and Africa’s first baseload installation. In addition, there is new interest in the minerals that are so important for the greener economy – copper, bauxite and magnesium. And these are minerals that Africa has in abundance. Sibanye-Stillwater has also made a strong play in the battery minerals field, purchasing a stake in an established Finnish company. A new platform has been created to manage investments in renewable energy, African Rainbow Energy (ARE). This comes about with the coming together of Absa Bank and African Rainbow Energy and Power (AREP), Patrice Motsepe’s vehicle for holding renewable assets. Both entities will transfer assets to ARE, which will then hold 31 renewable assets, representing about R6.5-billion. Harmony Gold is not only producing power for its operations but is looking for creative ways to help South Africa tackle its energy deficiency. The company wants to reduce emissions by 40% in 2031 and be a net zero miner by 2045. Harmony will buy power from three independent power producers for its Free State operations, each of which is responsible for a 10MW plant, and start developing its own 137MW of renewable energy by 2025. In addition, Harmony has raised the possibility of its closed mines being reinvented as sites for renewable energy plants. Ivanhoe Mining has become a shareholder in Renergen, the developer of a major LNG and helium project. Credit: Renergen The Bambanani mine is being closed down but has extensive infrastructure which could easily be utilised by an independent power producer to connect to the country’s electricity grid. That hydrogen-powered truck The truck launch at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine was a significant step forward in making the new technology a vital and real part of how business will be conducted in future. Hydrogen is generated via the electrolysis of water using electricity. If renewable energy is deployed to make the electricity that makes the hydrogen, then that is “green hydrogen”. Hydrogen has a wide range of uses across multiple sectors, from transport to heat generation and power. Anglo American intends using green hydrogen which it will produce at the mine to feed into its green-hydrogen system, which includes production, fuelling and a haulage system. The 2MW hydrogen-battery hybrid truck generates more power than its diesel predecessor and can carry a 290-ton payload. Forty Anglo trucks will be retrofitted, starting in 2024, and the whole fleet should be green by 2030. The Chief Executive of Anglo American, Duncan Wanblad, said at the launch of the truck, “The impact of our nuGen project goes far beyond our operations. We believe that the emerging hydrogen sector has the potential to dramatically improve the growth and development of many economies by creating new industrial value chains and economic generation opportunities. Growing the hydrogen economy will revolutionise not just Anglo American’s operations, but all mining and many other industries – and ultimately shape a better, cleaner world.” www.opportunityonline.co.za | 17

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