South Africa’s largest gold producer, Harmony Gold Mining Company, is committed to creating a greener and more equitable future for its stakeholders and has set a number of sustainability targets and ambitions to do so.
One of its target areas hinges on decarbonisation, through which the company aims to diversify its energy mix away from fossil-fuel generated energy, reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions and improve its energy efficiency. Compiled by CHANTELLE KOTZE.
With hydroelectric power already in place in Papua New Guinea, Harmony is also embarking on the roll out of a comprehensive, phased renewable energy plan in South Africa, consisting mainly of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.
Speaking during Harmony’s full year results webcast for the period ended 30 June 2021, CEO Peter Steenkamp said that the company’s initial phase entails the construction of three, 10 MW solar PV plants to generate a total of 30 MW in the Free State province.
For the next phase, the company plans to add a further 73 MW of renewable energy generation capacity into its plan.
In addition to these two phases, Harmony also has a pipeline of renewable and alternative energy projects in various stages of development, which are being supplemented by a pipeline of energy efficiency projects.
Harmony also has an aspirational third phase in this plan, which is still in the very early stages of development, which could increase the company’s renewable energy generation capacity to 121 MW.
During its 2021 financial year, the company managed to reduce its electricity intensity per ton of ore treated from 0.12 MWh/t in the prior period, to 0.08 MWh/t. Its greenhouse gas intensity in the period was 0.104 of CO2 equivalent tons per ton of ore treated, down on the 0.1578 of CO2 equivalent tons per ton treated in the 2020 financial year.
Over the past five years, Harmony has implemented more than 200 energy savings initiatives which have reduced the company’s electricity consumption by 33% while realising cumulative saving of R1 billion on the back of these energy saving initiatives. This translates into an energy reduction of approximately 1.3 TWh or 1.2 Mt of CO2 equivalent reduction.
“This is a testimony to the fact that Harmony turns risk into opportunity,” said Steenkamp.
Mitigating climate change risks
Speaking at the company’s inaugural investor ESG day, held in June, Melanie Naidoo-Vermaak, Harmony executive: sustainable development highlighted greenhouse gas emissions as a contributing factor to climate change as of the areas of the greatest environmental risk exposure to the company from a financial and environmental perspective.
“Apart from the direct impact of rising electricity costs, as well as carbon pricing impacting our margins, our climate change risks extend to future operating costs and infrastructure requirements, operating conditions, and indeed may impact the health and well-being of employees and host communities,” she said.
“It is imperative for us to understand the sources, scope and extent of greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations, to better evaluate our risks and exposures over the short, medium, and long-term,” she added.
The company therefore published its first Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure, or TCFD, report in 2020, which is a more profound reflection of the interface between climate change impacts and the financial wellbeing of the company. In October 2021, the company will publish its second TCFD report alongside its ESG report.