Botswana government says it will in the near future float a tender for a renewable energy project in the northern part of the country that will serve mining operations in a bid to mitigate their energy costs. Many mining companies in the north of the country are off the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) grid, which means they are forced to self generate power using diesel powered generators and in the long run increasing operating costs.
“The tender will be out shortly,” the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR), Kitso Mokaila said at a press conference.
The project will serve mining operations like Discovery Metals’ (DML) Boseto mine and Khoemacau Copper Mining that find themselves in difficult conditions.
Diesel power generation accounted to around 35% of the costs at the Boseto mine and it was one of the reasons that the mine was closed coupled by lower international copper prices.
“Taking solar power to DML is a way of government to protect jobs at the mine,” Mokaila said.
This will be good news to companies like Cronimet Mining Power Solutions—a company which already has similar solutions in South Africa.
Cronimet last year announced that it was targeting the Botswana mining sector and will use its experience from a photovoltaic (PV) powered mine it operates in South Africa as an example.
“The supporting arguments for PV in the mining sector include the fact that PV is more cost effective today than it was just few years ago due to improved technology and a mature global supply chain,” Rollie Armstrong , Managing Director of Cronimet told Mining & Travel Review at the time.
“In commercial terms to mining companies, solar PV replaces up to 30% of a mining company’s annual diesel consumption if that mine relies on captive diesel genset mini-grids, which means is not connected to BPC’s grid,” he said.
The company will be looking to bring the experience from South Africa, where it was the first company in the world to synchronise a utility scale photovoltaic plant to an operating mining company’s off-grid captive diesel mini-grid.
The project was commissioned in a remote area of Limpopo province in South Africa in November of 2012 and has been operated by Cronimet Mining Power Solutions ever since.
Cronimet has already ground breaking and began its engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracting activities for Namibia’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant on August 18th, 2014.
Mokaila said as government they do not want to see job losses in the mining sector as seen by deferment of payments of royalties by troubled miners. He explained that they talked to Discovery Metals to see ways of helping them navigate the troubled waters.
“The prices for commodities are dictated by demand. If the demand is high, then prices go up, but if there is low demand, then the prices are low,” he said adding that the mining route taken by DML was expensive.
DML used open cast mining method at Boseto, but were in the process of going underground at the time when lenders forced them to close the mine.
“They will have to change the way they mine to reach the ore in a cheaper way,” he advised. There are currently 3 bidders who want to buy the Boseto mine with the announcement expected in the near future.
“Three companies want to buy the mine. It is still positive. In the next three months, we will have new owners. It is not doom and gloom”.