Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Caledonia Mining Corporation, is looking at investing in a solar farm at its Blanket Mine in an effort to deal with the crippling power cuts being experienced in the country.
Zimbabwe is experiencing increased power shortfalls due to low water levels at Kariba Power Station, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station due to ageing equipment and limited imports.
As of Tuesday the country was generating between 546-1080 MW falling short of its peak requirements of 1800MW. The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand.
It’s a schedule that will be detrimental to miners and apart from arranging for uninterrupted power supply, some miners like Caledonia are now looking at investing in solar power plants.
Caledonia CEO, Steve Curtis, says: “Caledonia is at an advanced stage in the evaluation of a Solar PV plant, which could supply Blanket’s baseload demand during peak sunlight hours.”
The solar plant is expected to further reduce dependence on the electricity grid, reduce operating costs and ensure a more environmentally sustainable electricity supply.
“Engagements are commencing with potential equipment suppliers and regulatory authorities and the engineering and financial evaluation work on this project is well advanced. Advanced engineering work is underway and Caledonia is in the process of applying for the relevant regulatory approvals and will shortly embark on a tender process from interested parties to build and operate the project”, said Mr Curtis.
Caledonia expects to fund the project itself but the tender process will also invite proposals from potential funders who may be able to offer a more cost effective funding structure.
At least US$1 million is needed for every MW that is put in according to Mr Curtis.
He acknowledged the encouragement coming from the Zimbabwean authorities where related imports are zero rated for import duty on the “solar panel.”
In the future, Caledonia anticipates that Blanket will have a blended electricity supply from grid, solar and back-up diesel generators, which will deliver greater levels of operational reliability, lower operating costs and improved environmental sustainability.
Currently Blanket has a back-up generator capacity of approximately 12.5 megawatts (MW), sufficient to run the entire mine at full capacity but insufficient to sustain both the mine and the Central Shaft project.
In response to the increased risk of electricity supply outages Blanket has purchased an additional 6 MW of diesel generator capacity. The additional generators are on site and are currently being installed and are expected to be operational within the month of October after which Blanket’s operations will be fully insulated from the risk of unstable electricity supply.