RioZim licensed to build 75MW solar plants for mines

RioZim, the country’s largest gold producer, has been licensed to install solar power with an initial combined capacity of 75MW at its four mines.

In a notice on Monday, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) said it has licensed Cam & Motor Mine at Kadoma, RioZim’s biggest operation, to install 30MW. ZERA has also given Renco Mine, Dalny Mine and the Murowa diamond operation licences to operate 15MW each.

“Subject to the Electricity Act and the terms and conditions of this licence, the licensee may supply electricity to any transmission, distribution or supply licensee who purchases electricity for resale and, with the approval of the Authority, to any one or more consumers,” ZERA’s notice said.

In February, RioZim applied for a total of 214MW, with Murowa applying for the largest project of 68.4MW. The projects will be phased based on grid impact assessments, according to energy experts.

Power cuts slashed gold output at RioZim by 7% in 2019 and by 41% in the first quarter of March. Dalny Mine was the worst hit of the mines, suffering outages of as long as 18 hours a day last year. This led to a sharp drop of 18% in production at the mine.

Gold to green: Mines go solar

RioZim is the latest in a string of mines that are exploring renewables to offset the damage of Zimbabwe’s erratic power supply.

Caledonia Mining has tendered for a 20MW solar farm that will feed its Blanket Mine.

Prospect Resources, developing the Arcadia lithium mine at Goromonzi, has also signed an MoU with African Continental Minerals (ACM). This proposes the supply of 20MW of power to Arcadia.

Implats has announced plans to install 200MW of solar capacity in Zimbabwe. This would supply the 80MW used at Zimplats, 30MW at Mimosa and feed power into the national grid.

Karo Resources, which plans to develop a new platinum mine in Mhondoro-Ngezi, is to install a 300MW solar power plant.

Government expects mines to drive new power projects over the near term.

 “You will find that new power generation will come from mining companies establishing solar projects. By 2023, we will have over 600MW of power from projects undertaken by the mining sector,” says Mines Minister Winston Chitando.

The downside for ZESA, however, is that as mines start generating their own power, the utility loses a large chunk of its sales. Mines are the biggest consumers of power.

In May, power utility ZETDC invited bids for the installation of 500MW of solar power plants, hoping a shift to renewable energy will help ease crippling power cuts.