As a result of the mining that has taken place over the last century in South Africa, many towns
and cities have developed around mining hubs, the most significant of these being the city of
Johannesburg. Over the years, residential areas have grown around these mine sites, even well
after decommissioning of the mining activities. The mining activities left a lasting legacy of
derelict mining infrastructure with negative effects on the surrounding environment and
community, such as dormant mine shafts, sterilised land and abandoned Tailings Storage
Facilities (TSFs). Due to lack of funds, commitment from mine owners and regulators these
facilities are often left unrehabilitated, posing negative environmental impacts, including
potential health hazards to the surrounding community. This legacy of problems posed by
abandoned mines encountered in South Africa is probably unique in scale compared to any
country in the world.
A significant problem South Africa currently faces is an electricity shortage, especially during
the high demand season from the start of June to end of August, when it is winter in South Africa.
This period is occasionally associated with so called controlled “load shedding”, i.e. managed
power interruptions to prevent overload and subsequent collapse of the electricity supply and
distribution network. South Africa is highly reliant on coal-fired power stations for the majority
of electricity consumed, which has detrimental effects on the environment due to high carbon
emissions. However, a global shift towards renewable energy, as well as South Africa’s energy shortage, has forced the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to encourage greener
This study is aimed at finding an opportunity to generate more electricity, which is sustainable
and with reduced carbon emissions. This study was conducted to determine the financial and
practical feasibility of generating energy from the ERGO TSF, near Brakpan Johannesburg, as a
post closure land use option. The following options were investigated:
• Solar Photovoltaic electricity generation
• Pump storage scheme development
• A combinations of the above
In addition, rainwater harvesting and wind power generation were also considered, but were
abandoned early on in the study.
From the study it was concluded that a Solar PV plant on top of the ERGO TSF will achieve the
highest possible IRR of 10.70% and a power generation capacity of 471.9 MWp. Developing a
pump storage scheme at the ERGO TSF can achieve an IRR of 10.27% and generation capacity
of 78.2 MW. Combining the two options independently on the same site will result in an IRR of
10.61% and a combined peak generation capacity of 550 MW. If the combined system is required
to be independent of the surplus electricity available in the grid an IRR of 10.32% and a combined
generation capacity of 550 MW is achievable.
From a financial and technical perspective it is considered to be most beneficial to implement
only the solar PV plant on top of the ERGO TSF. Construction of a pump storage scheme on
TSF is considered to be a challenging undertaking and seeing that its generation capacity is only
17% of that of the solar PV facility on the same ERGO site, it is probably not the optimal solution
for utilisation. Solar panels are light weight structures that can easily be installed in large
numbers on TSFs with little engineering challenges.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2015.