One of the latest companies to join the clean and green energy revolution is dual-listed Ivanhoe Mines.
In March revealed it had secured options to use electricity generated from renewable, green, solar power together with liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power its Tier-One Platreef palladium, rhodium, nickel, platinum, copper and gold project in South Africa.
Construction of Ivanhoe’s first 5 MW solar power plant at the Platreef mine is expected to begin supplying clean, solar-generated electricity to the mine in early 2023.
“Powering our massive Platreef mine with reliable electricity generated by ‘green power’ options, such as solar and natural gas, offers a 24-hour-a-day alternative to the coal-fired national electrical grid and dramatically reduces Platreef’s carbon emissions. A power plant running on natural gas generates approximately 50% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than one burning coal,” says executive co-chair Robert Friedland.
The solar-generated power from this initial plant will be used for mine development and construction activities, as well as for charging Platreef’s battery-powered underground mining fleet.
Construction is progressing rapidly at Platreef and initial production is expected from the first phase of operations in Q3, 2024. Ivanhoe expects Platreef to require approximately 30 MW of installed electrical power for its Phase 1 operations, and approximately 100 MW for its Phase 2 operations at full production.
Ivanhoe Mines’s local subsidiary Ivanplats has also acquired the exclusive right to negotiate an offtake agreement with South Africa-based Renergen for electricity generated from its gas and solar hybrid-power facility, to be constructed at the Virginia gas project located in South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin, approximately 600 km south-west of Platreef.
The electricity generated from Renergen’s gas and solar hybrid-power facility could be combined with Ivanhoe’s solar power facilities to provide Platreef with an uninterruptible power supply to meet the mine’s base-load requirements.
Renergen is an emerging producer of helium, energy and liquefied natural gas with near term production and sales of compressed natural gas (CNG) and helium from its Virginia gas project that comprises exploration and production rights of 187 000 ha of gas fields across Welkom, Virginia, and Theunissen, in the Free State.
The Virginia gas project’s natural gas formation is a result of a freak cosmological event approximately two billion years ago that saw the largest known asteroid ever to hit the planet plough into South Africa’s Witwatersrand geological complex, near the town of Vredefort. The impact of the giant asteroid created the largest known crater on earth (the Vredefort Crater), roughly 330 km in diameter.
The impact essentially created a seal, capping ultra-rich underground deposits of uranium and thorium in place, allowing the minerals to undergo natural radioactive decay to produce alpha particles, which become helium. The impact of the asteroid also established the ideal conditions for early bacteria to congregate.
These early bacteria evolved to feed off the radioactivity from the uranium to metabolise carbon in the rocks into methane. Thus, the alpha particles serve not only the purpose of creating high helium concentrations, but also providing the energy required to allow bacteria to live deep underground, which is why this gas reserve has been classified as renewable by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa.
While the methane produced from the Virginia gas project is not zero-carbon, it is believed to be regenerated by these bacteria, which explains the exceedingly long lifespan of the wells, most of which were drilled several decades ago and have shown no signs of decreasing in flow.