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Zimplats granted licence to set up solar plants

Zimplats granted licence to set up solar plants

Zimplats, the Zimbabwean unit of Impala Platinum, has been granted licences to generate its own power as the firm seeks ways of cushioning operations from intermittent power supplies.

Zimbabwe does not generate enough power to meet local demand and has perennially relied on imports from neighbouring South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia.

The southern African country has a total installed capacity of 2 382MW, but its power stations have recently been generating a combined 1 055 MW against a maximum demand forecast of 1 650MW resulting in load shedding that is crippling industry and plunging households into darkness.

The balance has to come from imports, but due to limited foreign currency and deficits in the region Zimbabwe has to resort to load shedding to manage shortages, negatively impacting households and key sectors as agriculture, industry and mining.

Over the years, alternative power would come from generators, but with Zimbabwe fuel price among the highest in the region, the cost of running mines on generators is not sustainable.

Zimplats and other miners have now turned to solar power generation. The Implats-owned miner was last Friday granted two licences to generate a total 185MW of electricity.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) announced on Friday that it had granted Zimplats a licence to construct, own, operate and maintain a 105MW solar photovoltaic power plant at Ngezi Mine in Mhondoro in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province.

“The purpose of generation and supply of electricity is for own consumption at Ngezi Mine, but connected to the grid,” reads part of ZERA’s public notice.

A similar notice was also published but this time for the generation of an 80MW solar photovoltaic power plant at Zimplats’ Selous Mine in Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province. Zimplats says setting up the two power plants will cost the company as much as US$201 million.

Giving an update in December 2021, Zimplats chief executive Alex Mhembere said the miner was investing in a 185MW solar plant “to augment power supplies and enhance ESG performance metrics”.

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The PV solar plant is expected to be commissioned in the 2023 financial year, according to Mr Mhembere.

Zimplats is not the only miner that has turned to solar power as New York Stock Exchange gold miner Caledonia Mining, which runs Blanket Mine in Zimbabwe is constructing a 12MW solar plant which is expected to be operational this year and will exclusively supply Blanket Mine with approximately 27 percent of its daily electricity usage.

The gold mine has faced interruptions to its electricity supply from the grid, which the operator has circumvented using diesel generators.

Due to the rising costs of diesel fuel and problems in obtaining a secured supply, a solar power plant was proposed to reduce the reliance on diesel power as well as mitigate the impact of Zimbabwe’s grid instability.


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