South African mining companies plan to build 609MW of  generating capacity, if they can get official approval for the projects.

The mainly photovoltaic solar projects would generate power for the miners’ own use, according to the Minerals Council, which represents the biggest mining companies operating in the country.

SA has been beset by power cuts as state power utility Eskom struggles to maintain its fleet of coal-fired power stations and pay down debt.

Sibanye Gold has environmental and ministerial approval for the first 50MW module of its planned plant, but needs permission for at least another 150MW to make the project economically viable, said James Wellsted, a company spokesperson.

The project will be financed and managed by a “third party”, he said.

Users generating as much as 10MW for their own consumption should be exempt from requiring licenses, said Wido Schnabel, chairman of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association.

“For those who can build bigger than that, award those licenses,” he said. The process to procure more generating capacity must happen as soon as possible, Schnabel said. “We’re wasting days.”