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d.light has a proven track record in the use of securitised finance to support its solar-powered household products in sub-Saharan Africa. (Image source: d.light)

Energy

d.light, a global provider of transformational household products and affordable finance for low-income households, has closed a new securitisation facility to scale-up its PayGo consumer finance offering to make solar-powered products available to low-income communities in select African countries

The new financing is being provided by African Frontier Capital, a social impact-focused asset management company, and will be used to purchase US$176mn of receivables in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. With this new agreement, the provider has now closed securitised financial with a total combined purchasing value of US$718mn since 2020.

According to the company, the multi-currency facility will enable access to reliable, renewable energy for an estimated six million people across the next three years. “This new facility is another landmark step in d.light’s mission to provide people with affordable energy that is also clean, safe and sustainable,” remarked d.light CEO Nedjip Tozun. “It lets us expand our reach so that millions of off-grid families across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda can experience the benefits of solar energy.

“Facilities like this make possible our pioneering PayGo consumer financing model with which we are able to offer solar home systems and high efficiency appliances to the people that need them most in a way that is affordable and sustainable.

Solar solutions for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria

“With this new facility, d.light has for the first time in its history receivables-based financing facilities in each of our PayGo markets - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria. These facilities allow d.light to remain consistently cash flow positive and remove the requirement for further external equity fundraising to fund our growth."

Eric De Moudt, AFC’s founder and CEO, added, “This milestone is a testament to how data-driven financial innovation can play an important role in bringing financial inclusion to the world’s most vulnerable communities, helping them to gain access to clean and modern energy and the ensuing social and economic benefits that come about as a result. We are grateful to d.light for its ongoing leadership in the off-grid solar sector and proud to partner with such a visionary company.”

Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, speaking at the launch. (Image source: Office of the President, Republic of Ghana)

Construction

Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has presided over the sod-cutting ceremony for the dualisation of the Anwiankwanta-Ahenema Kokoben Road

The 20 km project is considered a vital step towards enhancing the road infrastructure in the Ashanti Region and alleviating traffic congestion and improving connectivity.

“The dualisation of the Anwiankwanta-Ahenema Kokoben Road will address the perennial congestion experienced on this road, which has affected the movement of goods to towns such as Ahenema Kokoben, Brofoyeduru, Kotwi, Trede, Adjamesu Dominase, Ofoase Kokoben, Anwiankwanta, Bekwai, and Obuasi,” commented the President at the ceremony.

He continued by highlighting that the project is part of a broader initiative to improve road conditions across densely populated areas in a bid to reduce travel times, lower vehicle operating costs and enhance road safety.

The project in Ghana will be executed by M/S Kofi Job Ltd, a Ghanaian company, under the supervision of the Ministry of Roads and Highways through the Ghana Highway Authority.

“Our government remains committed to decongesting urban areas and improving the overall infrastructure of our nation,” the President surmised. “This project is a testament to our dedication to solving real-life challenges and enhancing the quality of life for Ghanaians.”

Other significant road projects in the region were also outlined by the President, including the dualisation of the Ofankor-Nsawam Road and the Adenta-Dodowa Road. Additionally, the government is focused on replicating such initiatives along other road corridors within the region, such as the Suame Roundabout to Tafo Pankrono, and in other parts of the country, such as Takoradi and Tamale.

In his concluding remarks, President Akufo-Addo stressed the importance of continued investment in road infrastructure to address the country’s road deficit and meet the evolving needs of the population.

The Koné project ranks as one of the highest quality gold projects in Africa. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Mining

The Council of Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire has awarded the mining permit for the Koné project to Montage Gold Corp in the country

Montage was awarded mining permits covering a total area of 357 sq km for both its Koné and Gbongogo deposits (which are valid for 20 years and 8 years respectively) in addition to several advanced high grade exploration targets, with opportunities to extend as further mine life is added through exploration success. The awarding of mining permits represents the last governmental authorisation required to enable the development and operation of the Koné project with the official decree to be received shortly following today’s Council of Ministers’ meeting.

A unique West African mining opportunity

“We are delighted to be awarded our mining permit which represents a significant milestone in the development of our Koné project and reflects the strong support received from our local stakeholders given our win-win approach focused on local content,” remarked Martino De Ciccio, CEO of Montage. “In addition, we are also pleased to have reached an agreement on land compensation without local communities which further demonstrates the support for the advancement of our project given the significant social and economic benefits that it will unlock for our host communities and government.

“We look forward to rapidly continuing to unlock value for our stakeholders by progressing the Koné project towards an anticipated construction launch by Q1-2025, while continuing to progress our exploration strategy of delineating higher-grade targets that can be slotted into the mine plan from the commencement of the operation.”

Montage has indicated that it is now rapidly advancing exploration at the Koné project with a 30,000-meter drill programme expected to be completed in late July 2024. High grade intercepts have already been received at several targets. A second 60,000-meter drill programme is expected to be launched in late Q3-2024 with the goal of delineating resources at top priority targets, in addition to continuing to drill test other targets.

The AfDB board complemented Transnet for progress made in rolling out its compliance and governance improvement programme. (Image source: AfDB)

Logistics

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a US$1bn corporate loan to Transnet, a major freight transport and logistics company in South Africa

The company has faced significant operational challenges over the last few years and has been an ever-present stay in media headlines due to underinvestment in infrastructure and equipment, theft and vandalism, and external shocks (such as floods) that have affected critical rail and port businesses.

It has now committed to addressing these past challenges, fostering integrity and enhancing efficiency. This is being pursued, primarily, through its recovery plan that was launched in October 2023 that seeks to rehabilitate infrastructure and accelerate the relaunch of operations over 18 months. Restoring operational performance and freight volumes to meet customer demands has been recognised as a priority.

Vital AfDB support

In order to assist with these recovery and growth plans, AfDB has now committed to a US$1bn corporate loan to Transnet. The 25-year loan – fully guaranteed by the Government of South Africa – will facilitate the first phase of the company’s US$8.1bn five-year capital investment plan.

“Transnet, the custodian of South Africa's critical transport and logistics infrastructure, plays an indispensable role in the economy of the country, ensuring a competitive freight system and serving as a gateway to the SADC region,” commented African Development Bank’s vice president for private sector, infrastructure and industrialisation, Solomon Quaynor. “Our partnership will enable Transnet to execute a comprehensive recovery plan, addressing operational inefficiencies, particularly in rail and port sectors.

“It is aligned with South Africa's strategic 'Roadmap for Freight Logistics System,' and overseen by the National Logistics Crisis Committee, chaired at the Presidency level. This initiative signifies our commitment to enhancing national logistics capabilities and driving sustainable economic growth.”

Michelle Phillips, group chief executive of Transnet, added, “We appreciate the support demonstrated by the African Development Bank, the loan extended by the bank will make a significant contribution to Transnet’s capital investment plan to stabilise and improve the rail network and to contribute to the broader South African economy. The accompanying grant funding to the loan will also greatly assist Transnet with to its energy efficiency efforts and with Infrastructure Project Preparation initiatives.”

The launch was marked at the Sun Boardwalk Convention Centre. (Image source: Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber)

Finance

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has launched the Trade and Investment Desk in a bid to position the metro as a diversified manufacturing investment destination and exports hub for Africa

The Desk, in partnership with global auditing, advisory & tax leaders BDO South Africa, global financial services leader Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), is a key driver in the Business Chamber’s strategy to unlock the economic potential of Nelson Mandela Bay to attract and foreign direct investment and enable job creation.

The positioning of the metro as the Bay of Opportunity is aimed to utilise its unique advantages as a two-port city with a strong manufacturing base. This is according to Chamber chief executive Denise Van Huyssteen, who continued, “The Trade and Investment Desk is a strategic driver in bringing this vision to life, working as a united business community along with our partners and key role-players in the trade and investment space to market the Bay as an investment destination of choice and secure catalytic projects that will drive growth.

“The launch of the Desk is a major step forward in resurging the Bay and setting up the local economy for growth and diversification amid massive global advances in technology, new energy and the need for climate resilience. In parallel, as the Chamber is working to improve the enabling environment for business, it is critical that we are proactive in building investor confidence in the advantages of the Bay, and providing support to retain and attract investors.”

Viable new business opportunities

The Trade and Investment Desk will lead on the marketing of Nelson Mandela Bay as an investment destination to secure partnerships with key trade and investment stakeholders. It will also support potential investors with economic data, local information and networking while facilitating trade and export opportunities for local businesses. Moreover, it will support the Chamber’s Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank.

Bonga Mokoena, BDO South Africa CEO, commented, “I believe that as partners, we are aligned in our vision of unlocking economic growth. The Chamber’s Trade and Investment Desk, founded on global investment promotion best practice, will be an important lever in our collective vision and create much needed opportunities for the people, businesses and communities of Nelson Mandela Bay and South Africa at large.”

“Nelson Mandela Bay is the largest commercial centre in the Eastern Cape, an anchor for large-scale trade, investment and tourism, and the automotive manufacturers in the Bay are the largest contributor to provincial manufacturing output and trade,” added, ECDC chief executive Ayanda Wakaba. “It stands to reason that the metro and the Chamber are key partners for the province in economic development.”

Africa’s share of global manufacturing only sits at around 2% today. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Manufacturing

The emerging efforts to raise Africa’s share of global manufacturing have been explored in the latest issue of African Review

Manufacturing was a key topic of scrutiny in the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) recently-published ‘2024 African Economic Outlook’, which sought to influence inclusive growth across the continent. While noting that a “single-minded” focus on development through manufacturing should make way for advancing regional diversity and encouragement of wider sectors, it stated that developing manufacturing and reducing the size of exports of unprocessed raw materials “must be part of the economic transformation strategy of African countries.”

While the continent’s share of global manufacturing sits at a paltry 2% today, the development of the sector is still widely regarded as crucial to its ongoing industrialisation and future prosperity. By shaking off the post-colonial reputation as a feedstock for global industrialised economies, African nations can ensure greater value is captured from their vast pool of resources.

Here, a significant opportunity emerges in the form of the continent’s abundance of minerals critical to the energy transition. Already, Africa is positioning itself at the heart of global critical mineral production with countries such as DRC, for example, responsible for more than 70% of global cobalt output. Calls to maximise the reach of these resources are increasing in volume. Speaking at UNCTAD’s ‘Maximising Africa’s Potential’ event in Addis Ababa, UN Economic Commission for Africa’s deputy executive secretary, Antonio Pedro, remarked, “Imagine the potential if African minerals are processed into African batteries, installed into African cars that are driven across the continent and the world... This would accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and the electrification of transport systems on the continent, create decent jobs and make Africa a competitive hub for green industrialisation.”

Click here to read the full article in the latest issue of African Review, including the initiatives being undertaken to realise the green mineral opportunity and the future market for medical manufacturing.

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An insight into platinum mining

Processing platinum ore into metallic powder is a highly complex task

It requires a huge amount of machinery and energy, and efficiency improvements can result in significant cost savings. Tim Probert visits the recently commissioned Mogalakwena North platinum mine in South Africa to find out how Anglo American has improved output at the largest single stream platinum concentrator in the world.

Platreef ore is tough stuff. Very hard and variable. If it was not the largest source of platinum group metals (PGM) in the world, it would perhaps be better left alone.

The Platreef is part of northern South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, which also contains the Merensky Reef and the Upper Group 2 Reef. Unlike the other reefs, which are narrow, usually less than one metre thick and mined underground, open-pit methods are used to mine the Platreef, which varies between five and 90 m in thickness.Picture_2_of_the_Mogalakwena_Mine_in_Limpopo_province_South_Africa._Copyright_ABB._Feed_silo_and_conveyor_belt

Anglo Platinum has been mining platinum at Mogalakwena, formerly named Potgietersrust, since 1993. Mining Platreef platinum ore at Mogalakwena, 320 km north of Johannesburg, is easy. Daily blasts at the open-cast mine break open the Platreef to extract the ore. Then the hard work of processing this metres-thick rock into millimetres-thin metallic powder begins.

Most of the work is performed at a concentrator, usually sited adjacent to a platinum mine. Concentrating reduces the volume of ore requiring expensive pyrometallurgical processes at the smelters and refineries to separate the individual metals. In order to concentrate the material, the platinum ore is by turn crushed, milled and then chemically treated to separate the precious metals from dust and other waste products.

Other precious metals like gold, copper and nickel talk about concentration in ores in percentages, but for platinum it is in parts per million.  Furthermore, the concentration of platinum, or head grade, in Platreef ore is significantly lower than other South African reefs; it varies anywhere between 2.2 and 3.5 grammes/tonne, compared to the five grammes/tonne typical of the Marensky reef near Rustenburg. Based on a typical conversion rate of 25 per cent, it requires a staggering 40 tonnes of Platreef ore to produce just one ounce of platinum.

New pit and concentrator
In 2006, with the original Sandsloot pit approaching the end of its life, Anglo American, owners of Anglo Platinum, decided to invest in a new pit and concentrator, named Mogalakwena North. Anglo Platinum designed the concentrator to be the world’s largest single stream platinum concentrator, with an ore processing capacity of 600,000 tonnes per month.

In order to achieve such a high capacity with a high-risk, single stream plant, ie all the ore undergoes primary milling and then secondary milling in sequence, Anglo Platinum required some ground-breaking technology. Having suffered throughput problems due to the extreme hardness and variable quality of Platreef ore, Anglo Platinum explored methods to improve its platinum recovery rate and operational efficiency with the new facility at Mogalakwena North.

Picture_3_of_the_Mogalakwena_Mine_Copyright_ABB._Platinum_ore_is_conveyed_from_the_feed_silos_to_the_primary_crusherUltimately, Anglo Platinum decided against the traditional four-stage crushing process used at its other concentrators and instead took the bold decision to replace the third and fourth crushing stages with a high pressure grinding roll (HPGR) crusher. Usually the preserve of copper mining, this was the first time that an HPGR crusher had ever been utilised in platinum mining.

Anglo Platinum claims several other firsts for Mogalakwena North, which was commissioned in 2009. The plant is running between 900 and 1,000 tonnes of ore per hour into the mill, a world best for platinum, according to section engineering manager Natalie Fourie. Mogalakwena North also has the biggest primary gyratory crusher in the world, weighing 480 tonnes with an 18 m diameter and 1 MW motor.

The concentrator also sees the first use by Anglo Platinum of gearless mill drives (GMD), in this instance made by Swiss engineering firm ABB. The drives are powered by a 17.5 MW motor, five times a similarly-sized throughput mill, says Fourie.

At a diameter of eight metres, Mogalakwena North’s GMDs were the largest installed in the world, but they have since been superseded by a 12 m diameter drive in Australia. Mogalakwena North also has the biggest single stream centrifugal blower installation in Africa and the biggest mill discharge pumps in South Africa.

Concentrating process
The freshly-blasted rock is loaded by gigantic hydraulic shovels, again the world’s largest, onto trucks for transport to the primary crusher. All material tipped directly from the trucks into the primary crusher has to be smaller than one square metre. Material from the primary crusher goes through secondary crushing until it is less than 65 mm thick.

From there the ore goes through tertiary crushing via the aforementioned HPGR crusher supplied by ThyssenKrupp Polysius. Unlike normal jaw crushers that strike the rock or cone crushers which rotate, HPGRs utilise two, 100 tonne rolls adorned with studs 25 mm in diameter and 35 mm in length.Picture_of_a_concentrator_at_the_Mogalakwena_Mine_in_Limpopo_province_South_Africa._Primary_mill._Copyright_ABB

The rolls, each powered by a 2.8 MW motor, turn at 20 rpm, with one fixed in position while the other moves horizontally to adjust the gap. The crushing force is exerted hydraulically on the moving roll, with pressurised nitrogen acting as a spring. The initial gap is set to accept the largest particle size in the feed and thereafter the pressure is adjusted hydraulically to maintain interparticle crushing in the area between the rolls.

Fourie said the HPGR is working extremely well. “It gives a very fine product that gives us a lot more flexibility in milling,” she said. “A normal tertiary crusher would not be able to reduce the size of the ore to just eight millimetres.”

Fourie said the novel usage of an HPGR crusher for platinum concentrating has not been without problems. “The HPGR is a highly sophisticated machine that has a great deal of interlocks. When it decides not to play nicely, I have sleepless nights. If the rolls are not exactly parallel or the pressures are not exactly equal, the machine will simply refuse to start up.”

Due to various problems at Mogolakwena North, including frequent ore conveyor belt breakdowns, problems with the GMDs and HPGR crusher, it has taken Anglo Platinum nearly three years to achieve the plant’s stated throughput capacity of 600,000 tonnes per month.

“Few engineers contracted to work with Amplats have experience of GMDs or HPGRs. But if I have a problem with a conveyor belt, I can call 20 people,” said Fourie. “If we have a problem with an HPGR, I have to get hold of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). As this is the first utilisation of HPGRs with hard rock mining, the OEM is also going through a learning process. It’s a lesson learned for the whole of Anglo American. We now get visitors from Anglo American engineers from around the world to learn how to use an HPGR.”

From the HPGR crusher, the platinum slurry is fed to the GMD, in which steel balls grind the material. The primary milling grind is rated at 55 per cent at <75 microns; the secondary grind is rated at 80 per cent at <75 microns. Grinding the material in this way exposes the platinum and other precious metals so they can react with the reagents in the flotation chamber and disperse into individual materials.

Fourie said the GMD, used for the first time by Anglo Platinum, has been a success. “The flexibility cannot be underestimated,” she said. “As it has fewer mechanical moving parts the mill can be slowed down and sped up like a dimmer switch. It’s proven to be more reliable than standalone motors.”

Crushers_ogalakwenaAgain, however, utilising novel technology has not been without problems. “At the whiff of moisture the motor trips to avoid catastrophic failure,” said Fourie. “We’ve had to make modifications to the outside of the GMD in order to enable exterior washing and reduce the likelihood of slurry clogging.”

After milling, the slurry is then placed in flotation cells for separating via reagents and hot air, while the waste material falls into a trough, ready for disposal.  The valuable concentrate is thickened and then filtered at high pressure to remove water.

Before being transported to Anglo Platinum’s smelter in Polokwane 65 km away, the fine powder is finally put through an IsaMill, which grinds the material to less than 75 microns. By now the ‘finished’ powder has a concentration of 60 grammes/tonne, compared to the three grammes/tonne contained in the freshly-blasted ore.

Mogalakwena North produces 11,000 to 12,000 ounces of platinum per month. Platinum accounts for around 50 per cent of Mogalakwena North’s total output, with palladium accounting for 40 per cent and 10 per cent for all other minerals, including gold, copper, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, nickel and cobalt.

Power supply problems
It is estimated the HPGR provides Anglo Platinum with an energy saving of 15-20 per cent versus four-stage conventional crushing. When Mogalakwena North alone consumes a colossal 33,000 MWh of electricity per month, this is no small amount.

Fourie said the mine’s power supplies can be highly unstable. South Africa’s state power utility Eskom is contracted to supply 11 kV, but this can occasionally drop to 10.8 kV or increase to 11.2 kV. As concentrators become ever more highly automated, the plant’s equipment is sensitive to fluctuations in power voltage and more likely to trip.

Until it installed voltage ride-through technology that allows the GMDs, which are particularly sensitive to changes in power quality, to keep rotating until they catch up with the power supply, Mogalakwena North suffered six to eight trips per month. Some are unavoidable when the voltage dips too low for the concentrator to keep operating, said Fourie, but it now suffers just two trips per month on average.

In 2008 South Africa was struck by a near two-week blackout, affecting platinum production at Mogalakwena for several days.  Anglo Platinum, which operates 11 mines and nine concentrators in South Africa, had to shut down a number of concentrators in order to give priority to its smelters, which are not easily shut down and restarted. Since 2008 blackouts have not occurred, but Anglo Platinum continues to hold weekly meetings with Eskom to discuss potential power supply problems.

Anglo Platinum has a contract where Eskom must give notice of power outages that may affect platinum production, with financial penalties for failure. Should Eskom reduce Anglo Platinum’s power to 75 per cent of load or lower, it must choose whether to reduce capacity at its concentrators or shut operations completely at designated units. However, because Mogalakwena is an open-cast mine and not as energy-intensive as underground mining, it is able to keep running through power outages unlike others.

Anglo Platinum also has a rolling five-year infrastructure and electricity plan with Eskom, which sets out its future power demand. The miner has to keep within 10 per cent of the agreed demand and so far, says Fourie, the two companies have been aligned in terms of power supply and demand.Picture_of_the_Mogalakwena_Mine_in_Limpopo_province_South_Africa._Copyright_ABB._Stockpile_feed_silo_and_conveyors

Rising input costs
Eskom is to increase electricity prices by 27 per cent in 2012, having imposed a 25 per cent hike the previous year. Having signed an unfavourable deal with BHP Billiton, Eskom is wary of entering into long-term power contracts and Anglo Platinum will be subject to Eskom’s programme of significant price rises in the coming years.

Steel costs have also risen 17 per cent year on year. Fourie said Anglo Platinum will endeavour to stay on a flat unit cost for three years, so it is under considerable pressure to cut costs in other areas.

Yet the input cost rises are making Anglo Platinum more efficient, she said. “You’d think it would be impossible to cope with these increases, but we are managing. We have streamlined our buying to a just-in-time process to reduce warehousing. We have also increased our maintenance intervals where possible in order to reduce contracting costs. We’ve also reduced the volume of reagents used in the flotation process.”

Anglo Platinum plans to produce platinum at the site for at least another 60 years. Eventually the mine’s three pits will all join up. Once this is complete, scheduled for 2020, Mogalakwena will be the largest man-made excavation in the world. Mogalakwena appears to be the jewel in Anglo Platinum’s crown, despite the hardness of Platreef ore.

Tim Probert