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: So, a globally hosted mining webinar this week urged that South Africa advances towards green energy, and rapidly so. Tells use about that.
Creamer: Yes, the host was was Fasken, the legal firm, so there were a lot of legal connotations in this webinar, which was hosted from Canada, with a lot of South African participants. The message came out very, very strongly that just because South Africa is a developing nation, it doesn't mean to say that it must not go green very quickly, because the legal implications are big. And what we see is that South Africa has signed a lot of conventions over the years and that we are very much part of the world through these conventions. Also, our own Constitution says we have got to keep our people healthy, and what those in the know are looking at and saying is that the duty to mitigate climate change is not a rich north versus poor south type of thing. It is important for all to protect one another, and neighbourhoods are important. Neighbouring countries could accuse South Africa, for example, of damaging the economy of a neighbour economy by neglecting to ensure that the planet is protected and by failing to mitigate against climate change adequately. South Africa emphasised its strong dependence in coal, and that transitioning from it would take time. And they were not unhappy with that, but they want to see the ratio of movement being very much in favour of green energy, than what they called brown energy. This was the message that came out with a lot of emphasis from the financial participant as well, who reported that the overwhelming finance is for renewable energy, for sun energy for wind energy and for storage. We see that Eskom is going on its first phase of battery storage, which input is important because it's linked to the integration of renewables, and we see that in KwaZulu-Natal Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape, Eskom is going to be spending R5-billion in the first phase of their battery storage rollout, which is linked to the renewables coming through and being integrated.
Kamwendo: Martin, commitment to green energy is crucial, according to top South African business leader Patrice Motsepe as well.
Creamer: Yes, this is what is being said at the highest level of business, by Patrice Motsepe, the executive chairperson of African Rainbow Minerals, which currently mines coal, but which is committed to moving out of coal – and they made that clear the latest presentation of results. They also made it clear that they are committed to renewable energy, and this is because it is so important that they align themselves with the world because the volume of exportation from this country could be harmed if South Africa insists on continuing to produce even manufactured goods from dirty energy. So, what African Rainbow Minerals is doing now is focusing its growth capital on investment in platinum group metals, which are used to help to mitigate against climate change and a sector in which African Rainbow Minerals has always been active. It is acquiring Bokoni Platinum, which is going to give the company a huge resource of platinum group metals, and it is also involved in investing expansion capital at Two Rivers platinum mine. It is placing growth emphasis on platinum, iron-ore and manganese and is committed to moving out of coal. Platinum is being emphasised because it is so well linked to renewable energy and green hydrogen and can help the world to be a better place, the planet to be healthier, and climate change, which is a massive issue at the moment, to be mitigated.
Kamwendo: Royal Bafokeng Platinum is leaving a magnificent legacy of worker housing and nearby schools for the children of its highly productive workforce.
Creamer: Yes, this is fantastic. In 2010, I was at the listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange of Royal Bafokeng Platinum and that represents 300 000 people, the Bafokeng community, which went directly into platinum miming as the first rural-community owned mining initiative. The community own the operation, manage the operation and they've done so well that other companies are now coming in to acquire them. The two companies that have come forward to absorb Royal Bafokeng Platinum are Impala Platinum, which has already bought over 30% of the shares, and put their bid on the table, and the other is Northam Platinum, which has also bought up more than 30% of the shares but has yet to put an offer on the table yet. They are also interested in acquiring Royal Bafokeng Platinum. So, two big platinum mining companies want to buy Royal Bafokeng Platinum, but when you look at what the legacy that Steve Phiri will leave, the magnificent housing estate that houses the workers in homes they have bought is second to none. Some 5 000 people live in the fabulous housing estate. And then the two schools are so close, a primary school and a high school that are so close that the mine workers can walk their kids to school, they can become part of the governing body of the schools and become an integral part of their kids’ education. At the same time, they are close by, and this is shown up in the productivity of the operation. Royal Bafokeng Platinum has just published stunning financial and production results at the latest results presentation. Not only did they have fantastic record earnings, but they also had record production. The company has always been close to the labour unions, which has assisted its productivity. We're seeing worker-management cooperation at Royal Bafokeng Platinum, which is a model. A tremendous legacy will be left when Royal Bafokeng Platinum is acquired by one of the two platinum mining companies that are taking steps to do so.
Kamwendo: Martin, thanks so much. And we'll see you again next week. Martin Creamer publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly, and he'll be back at the Coalface the same time next Friday.