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Essakane Mine in Burkina Faso receives recognition for solar project

Essakane Mine in Burkina Faso receives recognition for solar project

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

02 May 2019

A Canadian mining company received recognition on 30 April for its installation of a major solar project at its site in the northeastern part of Burkina Faso. “The IAMGOLD Essakane Mine has become a leader in the fight against climate change,” said Joy Kennedy, who represented faith-based and civil society groups on a judging panel for the Mining Association of Canada.

The company IAMGOLD received an Environmental Excellence Award.

“Sustainability and mining need not be mutually exclusive,” explained Kennedy. “There is extensive work currently being completed in the sector to determine how innovation and investment in low carbon technology can go hand-in-hand.”

To best support the sector’s transition to lower-carbon technology, and a reduced carbon footprint, IAMGOLD committed to developing an innovative renewable solar energy system at the mine through its Essakane Solar Project in Burkina Faso.

Due to its isolated location, the mine in Burkina Faso is off-grid and has traditionally relied entirely on a thermal power plant using heavy oil. Located in northeastern Burkina Faso, it straddles the boundary of the Oudalan and Seno provinces in the Sahel region, about 330 km northeast of the capital, Ouagadougou.

IAMGOLD decided to put forward a sustainability agenda by partnering with Total Eren, a global renewable energy independent power producer, and AEMP, a developer and independent power producer dedicated to the development of renewable and hybrid projects for industrial sectors in Africa, to add a solar capacity to Essakane’s existing power system.

Made of 130,000 photovoltaic panels, the Essakane Solar Project currently stands as the world’s largest hybrid solar/thermal plant and is now one of the largest solar facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. “The solar project is ensuring that the IAMGOLD can lower costs, improve safety, reliability and improve its sustainability practices over the long-term,” said Kennedy.

“Not only has this resulted in a contribution in the fight against climate change, but it has had a significant positive impact on the local community which will receive the legacy of this project when the mine eventually closes.”

The project has created professional skills development and 40 permanent new jobs.

Empowering Inuit communities

As part of the same programme of recognition, the Glencore Raglan Mine program in Nunavik (northern Quebec, Canada, which incidentally has installed two huge wind turbine generators,) received a Community Engagement Excellence Award for its initiative
inInuit training.

Glencore’s Raglan Mine has made it a priority to attract and retain as many local Inuit employees as possible. Raglan Mine started a Tamatumani - meaning “second start in IInuktitut- programme in 2008, which has helped the company increase Inuit employees by 110%. As of 31 December 2018, 22% of the Raglan Mine’s workers were Nunavimmiut (Inuits from Nunavik).

Built in collaboration with community partners, the program encourages career development of Nunavimmiut employees, provides technical training and basic skills training, and supports the integration of new Inuit staff. It includes cultural sensitivity training for all employees at the mine. As part of the initiative, the company created the Inuit Employment Centre, which manages the entire staffing process, maintains a bank of candidates interested in working at the mine and visits Nunavik communities to ensure residents are aware of available positions.

“This kind of partnership,” says Kennedy, “is a good model of the ongoing work of reconciliation in Canada."

Learn more about the WCC work on Care for Creation and Climate Justice