Given the energy required to source the minerals and metals essential to the products we use every day, Canada’s mining industry has a role to play in focusing efforts on climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sustainability and mining are not mutually exclusive and there is extensive work currently being completed in the sector to determine how innovation and low carbon technology can go hand-in-hand. While it is easy to recognize opportunities to help the planet, it can be difficult to effectively implement them in practice. The Essakane Solar, a project led by IAMGOLD, highlights how miners can form innovative working relationships with like-minded partners to help transform ideas into action.
The fight against climate change ultimately requires the mining industry to prioritize responsible energy use, improve efficiencies and explore new options for fuel switching and renewables where feasible. That’s why IAMGOLD has sought to strengthen the industry’s response at both the global-level and for its local stakeholders by effectively reducing its carbon footprint. To best support the sector’s transition to lower-carbon technology, IAMGOLD committed to developing an innovative renewable solar energy system at the mine through its Essakane Solar Project in Burkina Faso.
Due to its isolated location, IAMGOLD’s Essakane Mine in Burkina Faso is off-grid and has traditionally relied entirely on a thermal power plant using heavy oil. IAMGOLD decided to put forward an aggressive sustainability agenda by partnering with project sponsor Total Eren, a global renewable energy independent power producer, and AEMP, a developer and independent power producer dedicated to the development of renewable and hybrid projects for industrial sectors in Africa, to add a solar capacity to Essakane’s existing power system. This hybrid solution combines PV with diesel generation to provide a reliable off-grid power source that will supply Essakane with competitive and carbon-free electricity.
Made of 130,000 photovoltaic panels, the Essakane Solar Project currently stands as the world’s largest hybrid solar/thermal plant and is now one of the largest solar facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. The solar project is ensuring that the IAMGOLD can lower costs, improve safety, reliability and improve its sustainability practices over the long-term. Not only has this resulted in a contribution in the fight against climate change, but it has had a significant positive impact on the local community. The project has created 40 permanent new jobs and has had an impact on the local supply chain. It was estimated that the plant will offset approximately 18,500 tonnes of GHG emissions annually from the existing heavy fuel oil plant while saving an estimated 52 million litres of fuel over a 15-year purchase power agreement. However, since commission, for the period ending December 31, 2018, the plant has actually exceeded expectations. Essakane saved approximately 3.9 million litres of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 12,000 tonnes over seven months of service.
In ensuring a stable and reliable energy supply, the Essakane Solar project has reduced the mine’s carbon footprint, helped the mine and its local stakeholders adapt to climate change, and involved local communities throughout the project development process to ensure the benefits of Essakane Solar are shared.