Blanket Mine solar plant starts operating


VICTORIA Falls Stock Exchange-listed Caledonia Mining Corporation says its new solar plant at Blanket Mine in Gwanda has started generating power.

The 12-megawatt (MW) solar plant, which was constructed at a cost of approximately US$14 million, is expected to improve the quality and security of Blanket’s electricity supply and to reduce its environmental footprint.

The plant is expected to provide about 27% of Blanket’s total daily electricity needs.

Commenting on the development, Caledonia chief executive officer Mark Learmonth said the solar power would replace expensive power from the grid and diesel generators.

“I am delighted that the solar plant is connected to the Blanket grid and from today Blanket will start to receive some of its energy directly from solar," he said in a Press statement yesterday.

“With 21% of Blanket's on-mine costs relating to energy usage, this solar plant is a very important project for the company as it will improve the quality and security of Blanket’s electricity supply and provide environmental benefits through cleaner energy.

“The solar power will displace more expensive power from the grid and from the diesel generators and is expected to reduce Caledonia's consolidated cost per ounce of gold produced by approximately US$37,” Learmonth said.

Blanket had been receiving its power from Zesa.

In recent years, power supply from Zesa has been subject to load-shedding, which has economic and safety implications for an underground mine such as Blanket.

During outages or low voltage, the power supply at Blanket had to be supplemented by standby diesel generators to enable uninterrupted mining operations.

Diesel-generated electricity is expensive, subject to an unpredictable supply of diesel and creates an unfavourable environmental footprint.

Recognising the economic, environmental and logistical challenges of running large-scale diesel generators for extended periods, Caledonia started constructing the 12,2 MWac solar plant late in 2021.

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