Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: The US this week put laws in place to allow its citizens to mine in space.
Creamer: They are very determined about this and Planetary Resources has been behind this and it has really been moving and shaking on the space front. They have even created telescopes now to start doing the initial research into space. Now they also have the backing of both the Senate in the US and the House of Representatives, a very rare show of unity, going through unanimously and opening the way for what we could fear as competition.
They are targeting low orbit asteroids with water and platinum. They are actually looking at the platinum space in these asteroids and the water will be able to power their vehicles. So platinum has been our preserve, but all of a sudden you get Planetary Resources coming in. Their high profile people in this, the Google CEO for instance Larry Paige is very much part of it. The timetable they set in 2012 when they launched at the Museum of Science in Seattle has been kept. They have not missed any milestones. The equipment that they are making is all coming in on time.
We see that there are also strange lawsuits going on in the United States when Nasa actually was inspecting an asteroid recently it was taken to court and received a fine of $20 for parking and storage because someone else had already staked its claim to that particular asteroid. Whether that is going to hold much legal water, I don't know, because we find that in 1967 the United Nations came together and they said no country can own space, it belongs to all of us.
You cannot claim it yourself, but they are saying does that apply to companies? They are saying if we can get up there are in the pound seats and we can take what we can get. It is interesting to see that this is really serious, the people are serious to go into space and mine in space, as crazy as it sounds.
Kamwendo: AngloGold is very upbeat about its exciting new mining technology.
Creamer: This raiseboring system that have been working on is now starting to bear fruit. We saw last year it produced 3 000 ounces, this year it is on track to produce 13 000 ounces of gold. All the efforts to improve it are just creating smiles on peoples faces, because they are coming through. The backfill that they use can now be pushed across 1 000 metres that they needed it to go across, which means that when they remove this with the raise boring they remove the gold and only the gold all the time safely.
Mother Nature won’t even know that it has been taken away, because there will be backfill to keep things up, which creates safety. Safety has become such a key issue and we saw with AngloGold Ashanti safety this quarter was abominable. They reported five deaths and they really lost a lot because of these safety issues. Some of them say it is sometimes linked to the wage negotiations. You have these deaths during the wage negotiations, which is very worrying.
You can see that we need a safe way to mine. This drilling and blasting that we have been doing is not only unsafe, but it is so wasteful. You cannot believe how much gold is wasted. Firstly, they leave 40% under there for the pillars and that is way the particular mining technology is so important because you can mine those pillars safely. It is already starting with pillar mining at Tau Tona and getting good results.
They hope that they will also get the smaller pillars. If they can, it will mean all those ghost towns that we have created in gold can suddenly revive again, because you can use this technology and go back to all those old mines and get that very high value gold in the pillars.
Kamwendo: Gold Fields is inviting tenders for solar power to its South Deep gold mine.
Creamer: We can see the modernisation process unfolding and South Deep now inviting solar power tenders, photovoltaic power that they are looking for. Also, very interesting, they have got an option for energy storage.
The big thing is storing that energy at the right cost. Because they say that the tariff with Eskom is continually going up this storage is coming into economic feasibility at their South Deep mine. That is the second gold group now.
Sibanye also looking for 150 MW of solar power at their Driefontein mine out in the West and also possibly going to coal to get another 600 MW of power that they will produce themselves. This is all part of going into this modernised future and the mine of the future will possibly be powered by the sun.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.