Construction of the Johannesburg and London stock exchange-listed new platinum mine of Tharisa’s in Zimbabwe has started at the Karo Platinum site, which will include a 30 MW solar PV array.
Tharisa is a platinum group metals (PGMs) and chrome co-producer and owns 70% of Karo Mining Holdings (Karo), which in turn indirectly owns 85% of the Karo Platinum Project. The Karo Project covers an area of 23,903 ha and is located within the Great Dyke in the Mashonaland West District of Zimbabwe, approximately 80 km southwest of Harare and 35 km southeast of Chegutu. The Karo Project has a 24-month design and construction schedule that started on 1 July 2022, with the first ore in the mill (FOIM) planned for July 2024. The cost to FOIM is set at $391 million.
Aside from other dignitaries, representatives from Total Eren and Chariot Transitional Energy were also present at the official construction kickoff ceremony. This was because Total Eren, a leading renewable energy Independent Power Producer (IPP) based in France, and Chariot, the Africa-focused transitional energy company, will work together on the development, financing, construction, and operation of a 30 MW solar photovoltaic project that will provide competitively priced electricity for the Karo Platinum Project.
The solar PV project is expected to have an initial installed capacity of 30 MWp with a potential extension of up to 300 MWp. Total Eren and Karo have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as the first step towards implementation and signing of a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the supply of electricity. Karo and the Partners will now pursue the next steps of development of the PV project.
Fabienne Demol, Executive Vice-President & Global Head of Business Development of Total Eren, commented: “We are very pleased to partner again with Chariot on a new renewable energy project dedicated to the mining sector. Our solar project will enable the Karo Platinum Mine to be supplied in low carbon electricity during its operating life, therefore reducing its carbon footprint and generating a competitive source of electricity supply in Zimbabwe. I look forward to delivering this solar project and wish to start even more renewable energy projects in this country where our strategic shareholder, TotalEnergies, holds a strong footprint.”
Benoit Garrivier, Chariot Transitional Power CEO, added: “In partnering with Total Eren on this project, we advance towards our objective of delivering a 1 GW renewable energy pipeline and developing some of the largest sustainable power projects in Africa. We wish Karo all the best with their construction phase and look forward to implementing the solar plant build in due course.”
Bernard Pryor, MD of Karo Mining Holdings, declared: “As part of our sustainable development plan, green power was always placed at the forefront of our energy strategy. Land designated to develop this type of power strategy has been allocated, close to the Karo Mine but also being mindful of a broader power strategy that we will develop with our partners and the government of Zimbabwe, to ensure stable and lasting green energy benefitting all our stakeholders and beyond.”
This is a great development for the mining and energy sector in Zimbabwe and the region. It’s really great to see a new mine incorporate a large solar PV plant from the get-go. This could set a good precedent where other companies that open new mines and in other energy intensive sectors also start to incorporate large PV plants from the very beginning.
The mining sector in Zimbabwe is starting to get serious about solar, and existing mines are also going solar. Just last month, Caledonia’s Blanket Gold Mine switched on its 12 MW solar PV plant in a bid to reduce costs. 21% of Caledonia’s Blanket Mine’s on-mine costs are attributed to the mine’s energy usage. The mine’s total diesel consumption increased by 76% from 2019 to 2020 and by 55% from 2020 to 2021. This increase in the usage of diesel was due to frequent power outages and unstable supplies from ZESA, the national electricity utility company, which led to increased use of diesel-generated electricity. Several other mines in Zimbabwe have announced plans to build large solar PV plants as well, including Zimplats, which is looking into constructing a 185MW solar PV plant to support its platinum mining and processing operations. It looks like the large scale solar sector is finally taking off in Zimbabwe.
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