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: Small diamond miners have formed an organisation to boost jobs in South Africa’s top diamond fields.
Creamer: We are wonderfully endowed with alluvial diamonds. Those are not diamonds that you have to dig down deep for, but you get near the surface. We have had tremendous expertise in that area, particularly in Northern Cape. But this whole occupation and business has shrunk by more than 90% in the last 20-years, because the mining legislation is made for big companies, not for the smaller companies.
They have to be very mercurial and have to move quickly and move permits very fast to do their job. So they have fallen back. Now, with such terrible unemployment in the areas such as Schweizer-Reneke, Douglas, Prieska and the like, a group has got together and formed the South African Diamond Producers Organisation (Sadpo).
They want to really start moving now to set a new foundation. They are pleading with the government to not have a one-size-fits-all legislation, but have special legislation for juniors, so that they can go out and recover these diamonds. I’ve seen pictures of them and they are absolutely magnificent and there for the offing. People can go and get them if they are well organised. There are only 200 of these businesses at the moment and there should be 2 000 of them. They are hoping that the government will assist so that South Africa can get going towards retrieving these diamonds.
Kamwendo: South Africans are going all out to save a struggling black-women-owned manganese mine in the Northern Cape.
Creamer: You know, my Dad was a gold miner and when he used to come back home and say our gold mine might close, because the gold price is down, we used to shiver and shake around our kitchen table, because we wondered what we were going to do. So, I hate to hear of mines in distress. Now, we have got this manganese mine, which is very well endowed, it is the Kalagadi Manganese mine. It is defaulting on its debt.
So, it’s wonderful that the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has gone in there and said they will help rescue it. Unfortunately, the owners of the mine are resisting this business rescue. The IDC is determined that they will take if further with the courts, because they feel that the mine is not sustainable as it is. Kalagadi owes the IDC R3-billion. They also owe the African Development Bank R2,9-billion and they’ve defaulted on these loans.
The IDC believes that it can rescue this business, so it is going all out now in the courts to try and get permission to do just that.
Kamwendo: South Africa is lagging other African countries in the awarding of mining rights and needs to play catch-up.
Creamer: Yes, we need to play catch-up. It’s all around a system called a cadastre. That is a complicated name for telling people what is available to explore, what commodities are in the ground and where they are.
Other countries have gone very far ahead of us. There have been a lot of complaints about our systems. It has always been fraught with problems. Even though it went from manual to electronic, the problems got even worse. Now, we are seeing a country like Mozambique streaking ahead of us. It has really gone into the highest firmament of electronic cadastre work. It is showing us what can be done. So, I’m hoping that the government will finally get down to setting up a cadastre system that can be so fantastic for investment, because people can sit in New York or London and see what exploration possibilities there are.
We know that our exploration has just disappeared. We don’t have exploration anymore, which means that mining will disappear if we don’t get some sort of investment. What you need is a good electronic system, which gives people confidence. I must say, we would do very well if we followed what Mozambique has done, because they have gone to the highest point of e-government cadastre advances. Those in the know are giving them three cheers.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.