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: Dr Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals is going ahead with an exciting new R5.7-billion platinum mining project.
Creamer: This is very exciting. African Rainbow Minerals had fantastic interim results. They generated a lot of free cash. They are talking about using that free cash to build this new mine, which is fantastic. It means that they don’t have to borrow funding. It is at Two Rivers in Mpumalanga. It is a mine that will have six element platinum group metals.
That means, the new mine’s production will include platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium and ruthenium, as well as nickel and copper as co-products. We know that all these metals are in great demand at the moment and that their pricing is good. So, a wonderful time for a mining project such as this one to go ahead to help satisfy future world demand, which is intensifying.
We know that the world needs a lot of platinum to clear the air polluted by the exhaust fumes of vehicles. It always does this in the big urban cities of the world and it is even getting deeper into the world of climate change in hydrogen fuel cells, with demand lifting strongly.
Kamwendo: Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore is going ahead with an innovative new R3.6-billion iron-ore project in the Northern Cape.
Creamer: South Africans may not have as much iron-ore as Brazil and Australia, but we have the brains to stretch and enrich what we have very admirably.
This is what Kumba Iron Ore will be doing with its latest R3.6-billion project at Sishen, which has got the go-ahead. The technology has got five letters that stand out – UHDMS – and these stand for ultrahigh dense medium separation. We have been waiting for this UHDMS technology to come to Sishen in a big way for a very long time, because not only does it allow the use of lower grade material, but it also allows for bigger iron-ore earnings, over a longer period of time.
So, instead of Sishen closing when it was due to in 12 years’ time, it is now going to go on until 2039, because of this clever technology that South Africans are introducing that can include lower grade material and earn greater price premiums at the same time. That is just the sort of clever thinking that we need. Be smart and make sure that these mines last a long time and earn a lot more money for South Africa’s people.
Kamwendo: Our mining industry is so desperate for mineral exploration to be accelerated that it is willing to help pay for a brand new government cadastre system.
Creamer: The mining industry just can’t wait anymore, because it finds that the backlog of the mineral licensing process is so bad that the lack of new mine approval and the absence of exploration is threatening the industry’s future. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has got to use new technology to find out where the metals and minerals are and to extract them positively.
A lot of the metals and minerals that the world needs now are new-era metals and minerals that we have never searched for in South Africa in the past. We need those mining and prospecting licences to go ahead but the cadastre system of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is just so absolutely unacceptable. In fact, we would have had 240 new mines by now had the system worked like cadastres in the rest of the mining world work. The backlog is unacceptably high. If the 240 mines applied for had gone ahead, the positive impact on the South African economy would have been immense, along new job and wealth creation, as well as the foreign exchange generation.
But this darn inadequate cadastre system is blocking everything. I don’t know how the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy can continue with this thing. The private sector is saying that if the department does not have the budget to replace it, they will come in and help to part pay for a new acceptable cadastre, but the existing one has to be removed, because there is a backlog of about 5 000 applications for exploration and prospecting as well. There is a huge need now to clean up the mineral licensing process and make sure that South Africa has a system that works, so that the country can explore and build mines that earn money and create jobs for the South African people.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly and he’ll be back at the Coalface next Friday.