Major South African gold miner Sibanye Gold is making steady progress to fund and build a photovoltaic solar power project which will reduce its reliance on power from state-owned utility provider Eskom.

In February this year the company revealed that as a result of the increasing cost and inconsistent supply of electricity from Eskom, it would be exploring alternative sources of electricity supply.

An environmental impact assessment study for the photovoltaic plant has been launched with an accredited independent consultant appointed to drive the process, and arrangements to have high level engineering design work conducted during 2015 are being put in place.

Sibanye’s target date for first generation from a first phase of the envisaged 150 MW installation is towards the end of 2017.

According to the company, the deterioration in the security of electricity supply, coupled with strong indications that the Eskom tariff trajectory is likely to exceed earlier projections, has further strengthened the business case for developing an independent photovoltaic electricity supply for the Sibanye operations.

“This has reinforced our confidence in the returns available to third party equity and debt capital, while Sibanye secures captive electricity at a discount to Eskom tariffs,” the company stated in its financial results for the six months to June 2015.

Looking for additional alternate power options

In addition to the solar power project, investigations continue into independent power generation alternatives, including coal fired power stations and associated sources of reliable, quality coal, continue.

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