Sibanye Gold, one of the country’s biggest gold-producing mines, announced last week that it will be building a R3 billion solar farm to ease its pressure on the grid.

Neal Froneman, chief executive of Sibanye Gold, told Alec Hogg from CNBC Africa that the plant will have the capacity to generate around 150MW of electricity.

“You have to put it in perspective.  Twenty percent of our costs are related to electricity.  It’s the second biggest, single cost and labour is at 55 percent, so 75 percent of our costs in the gold sector are related to labour and electricity. Quite honestly, in many respects, you are dependent on something you can’t really control. The 150MW that may come with the solar initiative is going to cost about R3bn,” he said during the television interview.

Froneman also added that building a solar farm to power 10% of the mine’s electricity needs might just be the first step in going off grid, and not having to rely on Eskom at all.

“That’s probably the ultimate position. It’s not an anti-South African position. I think it’s contributing to the solution and not the problem but certainly, if we talk about independent power producers and perhaps something bigger, we would just like access to the amounts of energy we use in the form of an independent power producer.”

Even if Sibanye Gold manages to go off the grid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wants to feed electricity back into the grid.

“Would we want to make a profit out if it?  It’s not really our core business and we have to be careful that we’re not distracted into areas that take our focus off our core business.”

[Source – Biz News, Image – CC by 2.0/John Gwynne]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.