West African gold miner IAMGOLD subsidiary, IAMGOLD Essakane, has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement with several renewable energy providers for the Essakane mine.

The agreement was signed between IAMGOLD Essakane and renewable energy providers EREN Renewable Energy SA, AREN ENERGY and Essakane Solar.

The agreement is to develop a 15 MWp solar power plant for the Essakane mine on an estimated 22 ha site at a cost of approximately US$20 million, to enable the mine to significantly reduce its fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

The mine, which is located about 330 km northeast of the Burkinabe capital city, Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, is currently off-grid and relies on its existing heavy fuel power plant. [quote]

IAMGOLD Essakane decided to partner with global renewable energy independent power producer EREN Renewable Energy SA, the 90% shareholder of the project company, and  developer and independent power producer African Energy Management Platform (AEMP), the 10% shareholder of the project company, to construct solar capacity to complement the existing 57 MW heavy fuel oil (HFO) power plant.

In the project’s first phase, 15 MWp of solar capacity will be built and commissioned by the end of 2017  and the hybridisation of IAMGOLD Essakane’s HFO power plant will allow savings of up to 6 million liters per year and reduce by nearly 18 500 t of CO2 emissions per year. The project will also create 40 new jobs.

Essakane Solar, a local entity created by the project developers, will operate the solar power plant that sells the energy to IAMGOLD Essakane, which is jointly owned by IAMGOLD (90%) and the government of Burkina Faso (10%).

“Hybrid power systems enable energy intensive industries, such as mines, to reduce fuel consumption, decrease energy costs, protect against fuel price volatility, as well as improve their social and environmental footprint by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and boosting local employment,” says IAMGOLD president and CEO Steve Letwin.

“This 15 MWp solar project may only be the beginning for our Essakane mine, but IAMGOLD is already well on its way to increase the proportion of renewables to 15% of its total energy needs within three to five years.

“Switching power generation to renewables has been on IAMGOLD’s agenda for several years as seen from the 5 MW solar power plant that was installed in 2014 at the company’s Rosebel gold mine in Suriname.”

With the transition to processing harder ore, energy consumption at the Essakane mine has increased from about 14 GWh/month in 2013 to 26 GWh/month in 2015.

IAMGOLD is a mid-tier mining company with four operating gold mines.