NextSource completes work at solar-hybrid plant for Molo graphite mine

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NextSource’s Molo graphite mine and associated 2.6MW solar plant. Credit: NextSource

Canadian-headquartered mining company NextSource Materials has completed work at its solar-hybrid power plant to power its Molo graphite mine in southern Madagascar.

The project, developed by Kenyan company CrossBoundary Energy, has a capacity of 2.6MW, and NextSource expects annual production to reach 4GWh. Alongside the solar panels, CrossBoundary will manage a 3.1MW thermal facility and a 1MWh battery energy storage system, and power from these facilities will be sold to the Molo mine as part of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with NextSource.

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NextSource is optimistic about the potential for renewable power to meet some of the mine’s power demands. The solar, thermal and storage facilities can meet one-third of the mine’s steady-state power requirements, and the company plans to use the storage capabilities to help cover 100% of the plant’s power requirements during peak daylight hours.

The successful installation of this facility will be an important proof of concept for solar power in the mining industry. The Molo mine is no small project, with 22.4 million tonnes of graphite and a mine life of over 100 years, and NextSource’s long-term plans for the mine will test the effectiveness of solar power over several decades.

The company has modelled the next 30 years of the mine’s productivity, expects to produce graphite for at least this long, and plans to increase its annual production significantly over the next few years. NextSource commissioned the mine in March this year, and expects its annual production to reach 17,000 tonnes until the end of 2024, at which point annual production will jump to 45,000 tonnes.

The sector at large is interested in decarbonising its operations, but much of the work to this end has focused on legislation and investment, such as last month’s guidance released to allow US coal communities to better benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The effectiveness of solar energy in powering the Molo mine could demonstrate the efficacy of solar power in the mining sector.

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