South Africa’s metals and minerals are a national patrimony and recovering them optimally is what we owe to future generations, which adds to the importance of points made by Council for Geoscience (CGS) economic geology specialist scientist John Paul Hunt on page 14 of this edition of Mining Weekly. The issue of national patrimony obfuscation comes into the picture with his revelation that the application of Zipf’s law to South Africa’s gold endowment in Barberton indicates that a third of the gold endowment in the gold-rush area of the 1880s remains unaccounted for. Once recovered, it also behoves us to match supply to demand. Failure to match supply to demand amounts to sabotage of the South African economy. Learning that lesson at their peril are the Australians, who have sabotaged their own economy by overproducing iron-ore in the false hope of bringing down their competitors.
As the world worries about overdependence on traditional metals and minerals that may lose favour in the future, new technology thrusts are lighting the way towards other commodities that seem poised to take up much of the slack. One of these is graphite, which is used in new technology thrusts ranging from lithium-ion batteries to carbon composites used in modern cars and aircraft like the 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. The US Geological Survey believes that the demand for graphite could rise sharply going forward. Against that backdrop, read on page 28 of this edition of Mining Weekly of junior exploration company Mozambi Resources signing an agreement with Australian project management company BatteryLimits to deliver a prefeasibility study on its wholly owned Namangala graphite project, in Tanzania. Also notable is that Mustang Resources, a Sydney-listed Mozambique-focused junior, is acquiring the rights to 90% and 95% of two additional exploration licences covering 205 km2 to the north of the company’s existing Balama graphite project, in Mozambique. Meanwhile, the Namangale project, in Tanzania, is said to have a compliant inferred resource of 179-million tonnes at 5.1% total graphitic content, while Mustang’s new licensing is poised to provide access to more than 870 km2 of graphite exploration in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado graphite province. Although Mozambique and Tanzania are on South Africa’s doorstep, Australians are doing the geological hard yards that are putting them well ahead of South Africans, who tend to be slow on the geological uptake and bereft of cutting-edge geological nous.
According to Stanford University, in the US, seawater contains 47 minerals and metals, but being able to extract these metals and minerals from seawater economically is often impossible. Yet, as is pointed out on pages 10 and 11 of this edition of Mining Weekly, the sea is yielding commercially, especially when it comes to sodium chloride – the mineral that British company Maldon Salt says has 14 000 different applications – and magnesium, the metal that is finding its way increasingly into new uses because of its light weight. It is also interesting to note that, with the help of braided fibres anchored to the seabed, the Japanese have, since 2009, been recovering uranium from the sea – but at a cost of $140/lb, which is still way off the cost at which terrestrial miners are able to extract the silvery-white energy metal that is currently selling for less than $30/lb.