JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Anglo American Platinum CEO Natascha Viljoen on Monday expressed the firm belief that decarbonisation and renewable energy have the potential to create new economic sectors in South Africa.
On the renewable energy front, Viljoen also revealed that Anglo Platinum is itself ahead of schedule in the development of its broader national renewable energy strategy, which involves developing between 3 GW and 5 GW of wind, solar and hydropumping and storage power.
On new economic development that decarbonisation and renewables can spawn, Viljoen expressed the need for South Africa to have "big vision".
“A big vision will help us to work towards some solutions together, and perhaps I’m an eternal optimist, but I do really think that we’ve got what we need.
“In addition, if we just consider the local manufacturing we’ve lost and how, for instance, we’ve lost beneficiation of chrome due to unreliable energy sources and increased energy cost, we’ll be able to renew lost manufacturing sectors as well,” Viljoen said in response to Mining Weekly during a media conference following the company’s presentation of solid half-year results.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed platinum group metals (PGMs) mining and marketing company on Monday declared a gross interim dividend of R21.5-billion from profits accrued during the six-month period ended June 30, when it made a combined R71-billion societal economic contribution.
New local manufacturing opportunities linked to decarbonisation, Viljoen pointed out, included the potential to locally manufacture hydrogen fuel cell membranes, for which South Africa already had in-country capacity and capability.
The University of Cape Town, with Babili Energy, already has the intellectual property required to produce the membranes that go into fuel cells, “with quite a unique application and up to a 20% reduction in production time, for instance”.
“We’ve got the skills and the capability and the innovation in the country. But energy does play the foundational role and I think if we can get the right policy behind it, there is an opportunity for us to unlock the potential. We’ve got some very exciting opportunities," Viljoen said.
On Anglo Platinum’s own target of generating between 3 GW and 5 GW of renewable energy, she said: “Developing that, and finding the right partners, is also part of the work we’re currently doing, and we’re ahead of where we wanted to be at this stage. Those plans, with some very realistic delivery, are well under way.”
Longer term, Anglo Platinum expressed excitement about the momentum in the development of the hydrogen economy and the options for the company to grow and to deliver into a world striving for a decarbonised future.
“With more countries announcing hydrogen-specific strategies, there is more investment committed to broader hydrogen infrastructure and more green hydrogen production. This will enable us to unlock incremental PGMs demand in new segments such as hydrogen production and storage as well as mobility,” said Viljoen, who reiterated the reality of South Africa being one of a handful of countries that has the minerals, land, and renewable resources in the form of wind and solar to produce more renewable energy than what it needs in the country, which could make it a potential energy exporter.