Barrick Gold is to install a 24 MW off-grid solar hybrid plant to support its existing 63 MW thermal power station at the Loulo mine in Mali as it looks to cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the operation.
The renewable energy project is part of Barrick’s wider strategy of moving away from thermal power in Africa, where lack of infrastructure means many mines rely on self-generated diesel energy, making this their largest cost item, the company said.
“Utilising hydropower in the Democratic Republic of Congo, grid power in Côte d’Ivoire, and heavy-fuel baseload generators in Mali, Barrick has already cut its energy costs significantly, and the continuing roll-out of renewable energy sources will ensure that its future needs are met in the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly manner,” Barrick said.
The solar feasibility study at Loulo forecasted that the photovoltaic plant will replace 50,000 MWh/y of thermal generation, saving 10 million litres/y of fuel and reducing CO² emissions by 42,000 t over the same period. The introduction of the solar component is also expected to cut the complex’s energy cost by around 2 cents/kWh.
Construction of the project—which meets Barrick’s investment criteria of generating at least a 20% internal rate of return—will start later this year. The plant is scheduled for commissioning in late 2020.
“The plant will use the latest weather prediction models, which will enable the power management system to switch between thermal and solar without compromising the micro-grid,” Barrick said.
Barrick’s 80%-owned Loulo-Gounkoto operation is expected to produce 520,000-570,000 oz of gold in 2019 at all-in sustaining costs of $810-850/oz.