Beneficiation, manufacturing potential big job creators

By Dr Dennis George Time of article published Feb 17, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - African Quartz executive chairperson Dr Dennis George welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, to speedily and radically increase generation capacity outside of Eskom.

The President said a Section 34 Ministerial Determination will be issued shortly to give effect to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.

Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act empowers the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to allow municipalities to purchase power outside of the national grid. Such a determination will enable the development of additional grid capacity from other sources and reduce the municipal reliance on Eskom for power.

African Quartz is planning to start a new project in the Northern Cape to mine, beneficiate and manufacture photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules in order to convert the sun energy into electricity, as well as assembly, installation and maintenance once installed.

High-Grade Quartz (SiO2) is the main ingredient to beneficiate silicon, which is used to manufacture the most efficient monocrystalline PV solar cells. This manufacturing process is a new in South Africa and has the potential to create 20 000 decent jobs, other than the process where Independent Power Producers (IPP) import these components to the detriment of localisation and industrialisation of the entire value chain consisting of mining, beneficiation, manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

The focus of the manufacturing PV solar cells in South Africa is to provide a lower cost off-the-grid or grid-connected alternative energy supply to Eskom, households, and businesses as well as other institutions such as municipalities intending to establish their own solar farms.

This type of electrical generation is well known to be the most cost-effective and affordable to roll out to rural communities, towns, and certain cities that grapple with electrification.

African Quartz welcomes the BRICS’ Bank R6 billion loan granted to Eskom to develop a 360MW battery energy storage project across four provinces in order to distribute photovoltaic solar electricity storage in South Africa.

African Quartz intends to establish its operations in the Upington Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and has submitted a letter of intent to the Northern Cape Economic Development Trade and Investment Agency.

The vertical integration strategy of African Quartz as a Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Company will place the company in a competitive advantage to control the process, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies, while establishing the following companies to support the artisanal mining, mineral beneficiation, manufacturing, installation and maintenance on the entire value chain.

1.African Quartz Mining: Processing, mining, and exploration of pegmatites for quartz.

2.African Quartz Silicon: Submerged ARC furnace plant.

3.African Quartz Crystal Growth: Silicon crystal-growing production plant.

4.African Quartz Photovoltaic: Photovoltaic module manufacturing plants in all provinces.

5.African Quartz Semiconductor: Semiconductor wafer manufacturing factory (in phase two).

The total investment for the five vertically integrated plants is estimated at R5.5billion. It has the potential to radically transform and firmly establish the Northern Cape Silicon Corridor and assist in confronting unemployment and poverty as well as the generation of electrical power in a practical manner.

It is also important for the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and the National Treasury to speedily designate Upington SEZ.

The dti has designated the Solar Photovoltaic system component at various levels of local content as follows: Laminated PV Module (15percent), Module frame (65percent), DC Combiner Boxes (65percent), Mounting Structure (90percent) and Inverter (40percent).

All state entities procuring Solar Photovoltaic plants are required to comply with the local content requirements.

African Quartz wants to engage with the dti to also include the locally manufactured photovoltaic cells and modules at a high level of local content to create and protect jobs and to minimise imports.

Photovoltaic electricity generation systems are the most notable and rapidly expanding global alternative energy source and could significantly contribute towards employment creation not only in the Northern Cape but also in all other provinces. The integration of this remarkable renewable energy source into various technical and market environments has become crucial.

PV solar power was estimated to provide about 2.5percent of the global electricity supply at the end of 2017, and in about 30 countries, PV solar power contributes between 1 and 10percent to the electricity consumption.

Dr Dennis George is the executive chairperson of African Quartz. He writes in his personal capacity.


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