Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: South Africa’s mining industry is at the ready to make big investments into electricity generation.
Creamer: This was made very clear this week at the ENSafrica conference when the head of Eskom Andre de Ruyter said he would support red tape being removed to allow the private-sector to self-generate 50 MW of electricity unrestricted. At the moment, if you don’t want red-tape, you do 1 MW, which is hopelessly inadequate. Now, they want the nod to be given to 50 MW without red tape.
I personally got 12 responses immediately from organisations saying they were ready now to invest and move in with renewable energy, particularly mining companies, because they’re facing higher upcoming Eskom power tariffs. They’re going to have to pay more for electricity. There are so many mining companies around that want renewable energy on their mine sites.
The mines don’t even have to set it up themselves; all they have got to do is agree to buy the electricity from an independent power producer at a certain price, which is always below the Eskom price. So, a huge surge, which could mean about 5 000MW of new electricity, is likely, which would help to take the strain off Eskom. This needs to go ahead and we’re looking to the Cabinet to give the nod, fast.
Kamwendo: The Northern Cape this week received another boost with the announcement of a new mining development.
Creamer: It’s amazing that a company with a primary listing in Australia, secondary listing in Joburg, can pave the way for new mine development, junior mining development, like no other company in South Africa. The South Africans seem unable to do it. Now, Orion Minerals has come in with a second big base metals hub.
They are just about to release the Prieska hub, which is a magnificent project for them, because it’s an existing but closed mine and they found so much new copper and zinc and base metals around it. Now, probably in 18 to 24 months’ time, they could well come in with a second one. This time at Okiep, near the town of Springbok, 450km away, which is also very rich in available resources information, also has ready-built infrastructure, and also has an existing but closed mine there to build on, and then expand, because there is so much more scope around there.
These two hubs could be a major boost to the economy of the Northern Cape. We know that the Northern Cape is very prospective, but South Africans have been so slow in turning this great mineral endowment to positive account. South Africans don’t explore, and here you get Orion Minerals coming in with a primary listing in Australia, showing us the way, how to do these things, because we’re really not good at junior mining.
Kamwendo: This week’s Mining Indaba saw Botswana going all out to attract new investment in exploration.
Creamer: It’s very good that the country next door, Botswana, is also showing us how fast they can move, and how slow we move here. We still haven’t come out with our exploration strategy, and the President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi was full of life at the Mining Indaba.
He was saying Botswana is ready to go ahead at full steam. Botswana has got new geoscience information, new digitising techniques, and intends using these to attract international investors and local investors, and President Masisi is opening the way for them. Already Botswana has shown that it can attract exploration investment, but it wants to do so even more intensely, because it’s far too heavily linked to diamonds, and it needs to move into the other metals and minerals.
President Masisi also pointed out that Botswana is endowed with copper, for which there is significant upcoming demand, gold, nickel, soda ash and other metals and minerals. President Masisi also indicated that Botswana has got potential in new-era metals, the rare earths and lithium. We know in Namibia they found lithium. We know that Botswana has already attracted exploration investment and I think that it is setting a very good example for us to follow, with President Masisi determined to attract more foreign investment into Botswana, to do exploration, a low-hanging investment fruit.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.