Spotlight on energy gap during DRC Mining Week

WWith deep mineral potential attracting more investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the success of the country’s mining sector is closely linked to its ability to meet rising energy demand.

So it came as no surprise that the recent DRC Mining Week focused on power generation – in a context where global mining players are looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

“One of the main points of discussion at this event was about the energy transition and how mining companies in the DRC can meet their energy needs while pursuing sustainability principles,” said Dominique Sambwa, geological consultant and president of SRK Consulting Congo. “This is an exciting area in which SRK is becoming increasingly involved – as it brings new areas of research and requires protocols that meet international standards.”

Sambwa stressed that mining companies are looking for clean technologies to power their operations, especially in regions with weak infrastructure. He pointed out that the country was already using hydroelectric power and had significant potential for more — but that the climate also lent itself to extensive solar generation.

Andrew van Zyl, Managing Director of SRK Consulting South Africa, was also part of the SRK Consulting team during DRC Mining Week and noted that there was a keen awareness of the opportunities presented by renewable energy.

“Every business needs a degree of self-sufficiency in terms of power supply, so there will be continued interest from mining companies – and even smaller companies – to generate their own renewable energy,” said Van Zyl. “There is certainly a great deal of interest and considerable expertise among our clients in the demands and opportunities associated with the mining industry’s commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.”

Rising global demand for minerals needed for low-carbon technology had boosted the country’s mineral sector – not just in terms of copper and cobalt in the copper belt, but also in relation to the tin, tantalum and lithium resources in the ‘tin belt’ from Kolwezi eastwards to Kivu province. This has already led to some infrastructure improvements, according to Frank Li, senior geologist for SRK Consulting China.

“I am often in the DRC and every time I arrive there are improvements such as roadworks,” says Li. “In Kolwezi, for example, more infrastructure is under construction; it is exciting to witness the development of DRC and we are happy to be a part of it.”

He said his work with a number of China-based mining companies operating in the DRC confirmed that these companies were embracing ESG as an important topic to include in their operations and plans.

“Almost all of these companies are planning or already have ESG systems in place, and they are aware of the relevant international standards,” he said. “They are also seeking guidance and studies that will facilitate the development of responsible supply chains.”

Wouter Jordaan, partner and chief environmental scientist at SRK Consulting South Africa, highlighted the opportunities for independent energy production in the DRC, which also had ESG implications.

“With good potential for hydroelectric schemes, and many new projects already underway, the country is seeing investment in solar power generation,” said Jordaan. “The renewable energy potential has supported the growing interest of mines – to invest in renewable energy for themselves and their local communities.”

He emphasized that mines have a potential role in facilitating access to energy for local stakeholders as this could contribute to the growth of local economies around the mine. Mineral exploration and ESG were two key aspects of SRK Consulting’s three-way collaboration between its offices in the DRC, China and South Africa.

At SRK Consulting’s exhibition booth during DRC Mining Week, visitors discussed mining-related solutions with specialists in a variety of disciplines – from mining engineering and geology to environmental management and stakeholder engagement.

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