Total Eren in talks with Karo for 300MW solar plant at new platinum mine

File: Tharisa and Total Enel earlier signed an MoU for solar energy for Tharisa's SA mines. Zim is next

Tharisa is in talks with French energy company Total Eren for a 300MW solar plant for Karo Platinum, a new mine being developed near Selous.

Land has been allocated for the solar farm and the company will feed excess energy into the national grid, Karo MD Bernard Pryor says.

“We have already allocated the land, just the other side of the main road from our processing plant. They will generate that power and sell that into the national grid. We will have a wheeling arrangement where we can buy it back off the grid at the beneficial rates of solar power generation, which are lower than current power prices that we would otherwise get from the grid,” says Pryor.

Karo’s processing plant will need 30MVA, and the excess power generated will be sold into the grid.

Karo is investing US$391 million to develop the mine, which will produce a projected 194,000 ounces of platinum per year.

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Earlier this year, Tharisa signed a separate MoU with Total Eren and its partner Chariot for 40MW of renewable energy for Tharisa’s mines in South Africa.

Last year, Total Eren, part-owned by energy giant TotalEnergies, signed a three-year deal with Chariot to jointly develop renewable energy projects for mining customers in Africa. Total Eren currently operates solar plants in Egypt, Burkina Faso and Uganda.

Total Eren and Chariot have also recently agreed to develop 430MW of green power projects for First Quantum Minerals in Zambia.

While Zimbabwean mining is expanding, ZESA does not have enough power to meet demand, curtailing growth. ZESA boss Sydney Gata has said he has applications for an additional 2100MW from miners alone, almost double what ZESA is currently producing in total.

Karo is the latest in a string of mining companies in Zimbabwe installing their own energy. Zimplats is building a 200MW plant, while French renewable energy firm Voltalia is close to completing a 12MW solar power plant at Blanket Mine in Gwanda. RioZim has also announced plans to build solar plants to feed its gold mines.

“By 2023, we will have over 600MW of power from projects undertaken by the mining sector,” says Mines Minister Winston Chitando.

ALSO READ | Gold and green – How Zimbabwean miners now dig renewables