Gold Fields wins NERSA approval for South Deep solar power plant


Posted by Daniel Gleeson on 26th February 2021

Gold Fields says it has received the electricity generation licence approval from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for the construction of a 40 MW solar power plant at its South Deep gold mine in the country.

The acting CEO of NERSA now has to authorise the licence, a decision that should be forthcoming over the next two weeks, the miner said. All the regulatory approvals to proceed with the project will then be in place.

Gold Fields will update its definitive costings and finalise all the required internal processes to commence the project as soon as possible. The company has stated previously that the solar plant has the potential to provide around 20% of South Deep’s average electricity consumption.

Nick Holland, Gold Fields CEO, said: “The solar power plant will increase the reliability and affordability of power supply to South Deep, ultimately enhancing the long-term sustainability of the mine.

“The approval of this licence sends a strong, positive message to mining companies and their investors, potentially leading to decisions being taken to sustain and grow mining operations in the country, especially in deep-level, underground, marginal mines. Enabling companies to generate their own power also gives Eskom room to address operational issues at its power plants.”

Gold Fields says its energy objectives are based on four pillars – energy must be reliable, available, cost-effective and clean – which promote a shift to self-generation using renewable energy sources. “We are fully committed to making our contribution towards net-zero emissions,” Holland says.

During 2020, Gold Fields successfully implemented solar and wind power plants, backed by battery storage, at two of its Australian mines, Agnew and Granny Smith, and committed to renewables at its other Australian mines, Gruyere and St Ives, as well as the Salares Norte project in Chile when it starts operations in 2023. All its other mines are also reviewing renewable energy options.

Since full commissioning of the Agnew microgrid, renewable electricity averages over 55% of total supply at the mine.

During 2020, renewable electricity averaged 8% for the Australia region and 3% of total group electricity, Gold Fields said. Once the South Deep project is commissioned, renewable’s contribution to the group total will rise to around 11%.

Holland concluded: “We expect our investment in renewable and low-carbon energy sources to contribute significantly to our carbon emission reductions over the next few years. Power from the South Deep solar plant will partially replace coal-fired electricity from Eskom, enabling us to significantly reduce our Scope 2 carbon emissions.”