According to the African Development Bank Group, more than 30 African countries are currently experiencing power shortages and regular interruptions due to a variety of reasons, including natural causes, such as droughts, oil price shocks, system disruptions caused by conflict and high growth with low investment or structural issues.

By Sibongile Thobakgale*

Consistent and reliable power is the cornerstone of any economy. These interruptions are costly and have significant impact on economies.

The African continent is a major producer of many key mineral commodities, mineral exploration and production form a huge part of many African countries’ economies. The mining industry is also very energy intensive, accounting for three time more than residential demand for electricity.  

It is therefore critical that the mining sector across the continent, explores long-term backup energy sources that are in line with their country’s policies and stance on carbon neutrality, to ensure that they can remain operational and profitable, while reducing the health and safety concerns caused by these power interruptions.

Building long term power partnerships
Sibongile Thobakgale is the area sales manager for South Africa at Aggreko

Mining operations are long-term projects that require consistent power management and must be carefully managed from start to finish. Costs are tight, especially in the current economy, and organisations require that every eventuality is prepared for, as well as ensuring that the mine continues to run seamlessly. Access to power is not just a profit point, it is a safety one, and mines need to know that their power investments are going to keep them alight when they need it the most.

This is one of the reasons why outsourced power solutions have become so popular, and so relevant. Not only do they offer a consistent and trusted source of power planned or unexpected power failures, but the right ones also offer this power in a variety of environmentally relevant formats. You can supplement your traditional power sources with gas, diesel, hybrid, or batteries, collaborating with a trusted outsourced partner to ensure that you create the right mix of power sources to fit your location and needs and to fit your sustainability metrics.

An intelligent solution

The reality is that the mining sector requires power solutions that can scale and evolve with the business. It is not just plug and play, it is plug and plan – it’s unpacking the unique challenges that face a specific build in a particular location and finding inventive ways of resolving these challenges that meet both budgets and timelines.

Outsourced power solutions offer the scale and diversity that organisations need to truly flex and adapt on-demand, and they grow with the site from initial planning and development through to the final closing phases. This is perhaps one of the biggest advantages. Mines can outsource the power that fits the specific requirements of the site on a changing basis – it is power as a service which means it’s power and spend on your terms. This results in cost-effective power that reduces the cost of production that has a long-term positive impact on that bottom line.

Capital expenditure is one of the biggest costs involved when setting up a project in this industry. It is often assumed that buying the kit is cheaper than outsourcing it. The truth is that the reverse is, well, true. Outsourced power solutions are always up to date, well maintained, run by experts, and assured of service delivery 24/7. There is no need to invest in new employees or trained experts to keep the grids running because these come hand in hand with the service provider. This means there are no hidden costs or unexpected added costs because they are factored into the relationship and managed externally. The value of this adds up not just in time and money saved, but in reduced admin and complexity.

Recently, Aggreko collaborated with Resolute Mining Limited to create the world’s largest off-grid mining hybrid that blended thermal, solar, and batteries on a 16-year contract. The company saw a cost saving of nearly $10 million in the first full year of operation and saw the long-term reduced environmental impact that resulted in mine sustainability. The Syama Gold Mine bypassed the challenges it was experiencing with unstable power and unavailable supply by creating a hybrid solution that could consistently meet its power needs, without having to carry the weight of infrastructure or equipment costs.

*Sibongile Thobakgale is the area sales manager for South Africa at Aggreko

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