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Iamgold’s solar farm champions renewable energy to cut mining costs

osebel PV Plant, Suriname Photo: Iamgold Corp/Energy and Mines magazine

Rosebel  Solar Plant. Photo: Iamgold Corp/Energy and Mines magazine


PARAMARIBO — As Canadian gold multinational Iamgold is nearing completion of construction of the solar plant at its Rosebel mine, its president and CEO Steve Letwin has said that it will serve well to champion the use of renewable energy as an opportunity for gold mines to reduce costs.


Letwin told Energy and Mines magazine that in his view there should be more emphasis by the mining industry on the use of renewables. “Because of the remote locations of mines using renewables is a superior solution … Developing larger solar farms makes sense where mines are already tied into the grid, as excess solar power can be fed into the grid during the day and drawn back again during the night. The renewables industry has to help mines understand the technology that’s available and then create alternatives that can be positively compared to hydrocarbon use,” he said.


He pressed on: “I’m a believer that self-generation will occur – and that it needs to occur. Collectively, mankind is dumping 100-million tons of carbon into the air every day. Half of that gets absorbed into the oceans and into the plant life, but it’s still a lot of carbon entering the atmosphere. At the end of the day, we’re all going to have to do a better job reducing the amount of carbon we’re dumping into the atmosphere.”


It was only in May this year that Iamgold ceremoniously installed the first panel of what would become the largest solar project in Suriname. The US$12-14 million, 5MW project is fully funded by Rosebel NV and will be used at the company’s mining site in District Brokpondo. “It is being commissioned as we speak. It’s a sight to behold. It’s an impressive solar farm,” Letwin said.


He explained that the project has a twofold objective. “The Surinamese population is growing, and so demands for electricity/power are growing. (And) as we move into hard rock at Rosebel, our own power requirements are going to increase,” he said.


He said that Iamgold, which holds 70 percent of the stakes in the Rosebel mine (Government holds 30 percent), worked with the government to come up with a strategy that would involve increasing the power supply in the country. “We wanted to increase the amount of power coming from a renewable source in the country – which at the time was zero. Jointly, we talked about the benefits of developing a small solar farm and creating 5 MW of solar power available for the grid. Because of the needs of our own mine, it made sense that we’d build the grid on our site and supply the power into the grid for mine use or general use – depending on the time of the day.”


“We’re all trying to do our best to decrease the use of hydrocarbons. Because the hydro facility in Suriname could not be expanded in the foreseeable future, the obvious alternative was diesel generation. But we just thought that solar would be a better alternative to burning hydrocarbons. The major consideration was the green strategy: to reduce the amount of carbon we’re burning to produce energy.”


 Although saving money is an imperative for all mining companies operating in the current environment, Letwin was equally convinced that the sector needed to pursue a greener strategy on environmental grounds “to reduce the carbon we’re burning to produce energy.”


He said that Iamgold is assessing options for a solar project, somewhat similar to Rosebel, to help power its Essakane mine in Burkina Faso. “… Crushing and grinding rock are very power-sensitive parts of our cycle. If we can reduce our power costs, we have a very positive impact on our all-in costs for producing an ounce of gold. In today’s environment, that’s a critical element of our go-forward strategy. If we can reduce power costs, we can improve our economics,” Letwin said.


He said that in the next three to five years, he would like to see 15% of Iamgold’s power generated by renewables. “We are trying to reduce the amount of hydrocarbons we’re burning from an environmental standpoint. We’re very conscious of trying to reduce our hydrocarbon output. We wouldn’t be spending US$12 million at Rosebel to build a solar plant if we didn’t think it was going to help our cost structure and also help the environment.




Category/ies:News, Suriname News.
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