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Hydropower for mining was in developed for SA mines from the 1980s under the Chamber of Mines, Novatek’s predecessor being a key collaborator. It was developed for deep gold mines to use the mine cooling water to also power machinery, thus saving energy.

It has since expanded to shallower mines and applications using localised pumps to provide the necessary pressure.

Hydropower holds many benefits; energy savings can be 90% compared to compressed air systems; labour productivity can be doubled and safety improved. The working environment is also improved by eliminating oil lubricators, exhaust misting and reducing noise.

The economics also make sense; capital costs are lower than compressed air systems and much lower than highly mechanised systems.

Electrical power costs have increased 300 % in the last few years and labour costs have increased but productivity has stagnated. Hydropower can double drilling labour productivity and saves energy (up to 90%).

The technologies can be adapted to suit a range of mining operations, from hand-held drilling to ‘appropriate technology’ drill rigs to more mechanised mining systems.

By ‘appropriate technology’ we mean systems and equipment that suit the orebody and mining layout, available skills, the mine infrastructure, capital and operating cost profile of the mine.