Economic constraints on Africa often have substantial repercussions for mining operations. In our previous blog, we looked at how Eskom, the state utility, has introduced rolling outages in order to cope with high demands of electricity, and have placed power consumption limitations on mining operations, which can cripple production rates and extend operation duration. (http://bit.ly/1DEzxMr)

However, the mining industry is integral to Africa’s steady growth and development. Value Walk, a global publication, reported; “In Zambia…a huge 12 percent of the country’s GDP comes from mining, an industry that employs 10 percent of all Zambians.” (http://bit.ly/1L7CTdw)

South Africa still has the world’s richest mineral deposits, with $3.3 trillion in platinum, gold, iron ore and coal, but for many other African countries, mineral exploration and production constitute to significant portions of their economies and remain keys to economic growth. Africa is richly endowed with mineral reserves and ranks first or second in quantity of world reserves of bauxite, cobalt, industrial diamond, phosphate rock, platinum-group metals (PGM), vermiculite, and zirconium. (http://bit.ly/1FYoKz4)

Mining Indaba’s managing director, Jonathan Moore, recently stated in an interview with CNBC Africa; “The resource opportunities here in South Africa are some of the best in the World, and that is not disputable.” (http://bit.ly/1wW6z9t)

Yet despite the abundance of minerals, African mining operations still face challenges when managing the cost effectiveness of their projects. With operating costs increasing due to higher fuel prices, many mining professionals are looking at energy saving technologies for ways to cut down their operational expenditure.

Innovative technologies to support African mining

Oliver Merz, Senior Manager of Key Accounts at Bowman Power Group, commented while attending Mining Indaba; “We’ve seen a lot of interest being generated around the application of cost-saving technologies this year. Mining operations are keen to seek out fuel-saving or power-saving solutions as their projects demand higher amounts of electricity. Technologies which can guarantee a reduction in the operational cost are a top priority right now.”

Bowman Power Group’s recent partnership with Powertech System Integrators is a perfect example of Africa’s continued interest in power-managing technologies. Adding Bowman Power Group’s ETC (Electric Turbo Compounding) technology to their portfolio of solutions means mining operations across Africa have easy access to a proven cost-saving application.

Grid supplication of power for mining operations in Africa have dropped from 60% to 48%, suggesting that many mining owners are switching to self-generated power as a more dependable source of energy. However, those that generate their own power will find that 78% of the opex cost will be spent solely on diesel fuel. In cases such as these, mining operations are increasing the reliability of their power source in exchange for higher costs of supply.

Graham McDonald, Senior Sales Consultant for Bowman Power Group, stated; “Our partnership with Powertech is an essential component in distributing our fuel saving solution to mining operations that need to reduce their opex. For mines that have unreliable grid power and have opted to self-supply power using diesel fuel, the bill can run into millions of dollars. The application of ETC technology can bring cost savings and efficiencies to the industry, creating flexibility in regards to expenditure.”

A bright future for African Mining

The atmosphere of Mining Indaba – and the current African mining industry as a whole – is optimistic, yet cautious. Though challenges have presented themselves in recent years, many mining operations continue to thrive. Keeping the industry stable as it endures Africa’s current economic difficulties is vital for both the African mining industry and the African continent as a whole.

Andrew Lane, Deloitte Africa’s Mining Leader, recently stated in an interview with BizNews (a global publication); “Mining is a long-term industry and we’ve been through cycles before.  It’s a cyclical industry.” (http://bit.ly/1BgcqYs)

Having just achieved a 10 million hour worldwide running time, our solutions have a proven track record for consistency and efficiency. Investment in long-term solutions such as ETC technology can provide a solid foundation for the future stability of a mining operation, cutting back the fuel costs which dominate much of the opex of self-powered projects.

Capitalising in cost-saving utilities and maintaining a firm handle on the operational expenditure of mining operations will prove to be a deciding factor in the future of Africa’s mining sector. Enduring these challenges and securing a stable supply of power are two things which are essential to the bright outlook of mining in Africa.