26 September 2011
South African miner Gold Fields’ innovative methane capture project at its Beatrix mine in Welkom has been registered as a Clean Development Mechanism project with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), allowing the company to earn carbon credits.
In a bid to slow climate change, the UN gives credits to corporations and entities who initiate projects to reduce the level of pollution. Once the project has been registered as a CDM, the credits, known as carbon credits, can be earned and traded.
This transaction was awarded the European Energy Risk Deal of the Year award in 2010 because it was the first carbon credit project of this size undertaken by a gold mine, and the structuring of the deal was very innovative in that it simplified the process of selling carbon credits and generated more revenue for Gold Fields.
According to a statement last week, Gold Fields is so far the only South African CDM project to be registered this year.
Alternative energy, increased safety
The project not only reduces carbon emissions and significantly increases safety but will also generate an alternative source of clean energy, as the Beatrix mine project captures methane gas at its source which is then piped to the surface where is either flared or used to generate electricity.
This is the first time that such a project has been implemented in South Africa.
“The project has generated substantial benefits,” said Robbie Louw, director at Promethium Carbon, which assisted Gold Fields with the development of the methodology and carbon credit registration. “It is expected that the carbon emissions at the operation will be reduced by 1.7-million tons during the period 2011 to 2018.”
The revenue generated by the carbon credits has enabled Gold Fields to extract the methane gas at the source, which had a positive impact on safety as it prevents the methane from entering the mine ventilation system.
“Although gold mines are generally not viewed as big emitters the situation is different in South Africa because our mines are very deep, hot and energy intensive,” said Louw. “So this is an important contribution to the reduction of climate change.”
Commitment to Kyoto Protocol
Gold Fields’ group environmental engineer Jan du Plessis said that the registration of the project was important if the company was to be taken seriously in terms of showing its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.
“Although at first blush one project registered this year does not seem to very impressive, especially when compared with India and China – who have registered hundreds of projects – in fact, South Africa has a much smaller population so if we look at it in per capita terms then we are ahead of India and China.”
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