Burkina Faso gold mine to build solar hybrid power plant

Project is expected to save an annual 6 million litres of fuel a year and 18,500 tonnes of CO2

IAMGOLD (TSX:IMG) is taking a further step towards diversifying its power needs into renewable energy, with a plan to install a 15-megawatt-peak (MWp) solar power plant at its Essakane mine in Burkina Faso.

Announced yesterday, the Toronto-based company has signed a power purchase agreement to begin developing the solar plant at the gold mine, located about 330 kilometres northeast of the Burkinabe capital city, Ouagadougou. The 15-year deal is between IAMGOLD Essakane SA, EREN Renewable Energy SA, AREN ENERGY (PTY) Ltd. and Essakane Solar SAS.

The mine is 90% owned by IAMGOLD and 10% by the Burkina Faso government. It produces about 400,000 gold ounces a year.

The solar plant, expected to be commissioned by the end of 2017, would be operated by Essakane Solar SAS. Electricity produced from it will be sold to IAMGOLD Essakane SA.

Using solar is a way for IAMGOLD to cut its diesel use and lower its carbon footprint – a path it started in 2014 with a 5MW solar plant installed at its Rosebel gold mine in Suriname.

The company says the transition to processing hard ore at the mine has increased energy consumption from about 14 gigawatt hours a month in 2013, to 26 GWh/month in 2015. The solar plant will complement an existing 57MW heavy fuel oil power plant, allowing savings of around 6 million litres of fuel a year and a reduction of 18,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide, annually.

"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," said 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."

According to Mining Weekly the project is EREN's second utility-scale project in Africa and will be one of the largest hybrid diesel solar photovoltaic projects in the world.