Zimbabwe mine eyes solar amid national power crisis

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email
Harare. Source: David Samuel Santos, Flickr

Caledonia Mining wants to build a solar power plant at its Blanket gold mine in southern Zimbabwe to ward off the worst from the country's increasingly volatile power supply.

Earlier this month, CEO Steve Curtis told shareholders the company is at “an advanced state of evaluating a solar PV generating facility which would reduce Blanket’s dependence on grid power.”

Like the rest of Zimbabwe, the 115-year old mine has been subjected to frequent and long interruptions to its power over the summer months.

According to Curtis, the power disruptions will reduce the underground gold mine's annual output by 3,000 to 6,000 ounces. Caledonia's initial estimations were that the mine would produce up to 56,000 ounces in total this year. It has revised that number to between 50,000 and 53,000.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of an unprecedented power crisis. It is currently producing just half of its 1,700MW peak demand because of ageing thermal stations and drought-induced low water levels at the country’s main hydro plant. 

Since early June, the country has spent 18 hours per day without power, which has devastated the economy and wreaked havoc on medicine, mining and other industries. In mid-August, the state-backed power cuts were scaled back to peak morning and evening hours after the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Agency (ZESA) purchased 400MW from South Africa’s state utility, Eskom.

Three of Zimbabwe’s top platinum miners – Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki – bankrolled ZESA’s US$10 million part-payment to Eskom for the power, according to a report on 18 August in Harare newspaper The Standard.

The South African state utility has a raft of problems of its own, including ZAR440 billion of debt (US$29 billion), technical insolvency and widespread power cuts.

South African miners are also toying with PV. In February, Harmony Gold Mining Company announced that it was in talks to develop 30MW of solar to help safeguard the firm against ongoing turmoil and power shortages at Eskom.

That same month, the South African government outlined plans to reopen PPAs signed in the early phases of the country’s renewables procurement programme in order to push for lower prices and relieve some of the financial pressure on the beleaguered state utility.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
June 12, 2021
With South Africa faced with ongoing power cuts, Jules Scully explores the how solar PV can help decarbonise the country’s coal-heavy grid while providing energy security.
June 11, 2021
South Africa’s solar sector has welcomed a new reform that will increase the country’s licensing exemption threshold for embedded generation projects from 1MW to 100MW.
June 2, 2021
Scatec will develop three projects in South Africa totalling 540MW of solar and 225MW / 1,140MWh of battery storage after being awarded preferred bidder status through a government tender.
May 5, 2021
Governments worldwide must ensure that there are sufficient raw materials available to solar and energy storage developers to safeguard the energy transition.
March 23, 2021
Scatec has unveiled a NOK 100 billion (US$11.7 billion) plan that will see the company expand its renewables portfolio to 15GW over the next four years.
March 19, 2021
A renewables procurement round launched today (19 March) by the government of South Africa will aim to source 2.6GW of clean energy capacity, of which 1GW will be solar PV and 1.6GW wind.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
June 15, 2021
Solar Media Events
July 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
August 24, 2021
Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
October 6, 2021