The plant will support its existing 63MW thermal power station by harnessing Mali's abundant solar resource.
Barrick Gold stated that this renewable energy project is part of its strategy of moving away from thermal power in Africa, where lack of infrastructure means that many mines need to rely on self-generated diesel energy, making this their largest cost item.
The company has already cut its energy costs significantly by utilising hydropower in the Democratic Republic of Congo, grid power in Côte d'Ivoire and heavy-fuel baseload generators in Mali. Continuing roll-out of renewable energy sources will ensure that its future needs are met in the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly manner.
The solar feasibility study forecasts that the photovoltaic plant will replace 50,000MWh/y of thermal generation, saving 10 million litres of fuel per year and reducing CO2 emissions by 42,000t over the same period. The introduction of the solar component will cut the complex's energy cost by around US$0.02/kWh.
Construction of the project - which meets Barrick's investment criteria of 20% internal rate of return (IRR) - will start later this year, and it is scheduled for commissioning in late 2020. The plant will use the latest weather prediction models, which will enable the power management system to switch between thermal and solar without compromising the micro-grid.