Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Udo Carelse speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Carelse: The fact that New York City is to use platinum to help it decarbonise its buildings is great news. What does it mean and why is it great news?
Creamer: It’s great news because when South African’s hear the word ‘platinum’, they must jump up and down with joy, because South Africa is the main supplier of platinum and platinum group metals. We flatten ‘em with platinum. What is happening in New York is that the city wants to go green, but the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Sometimes the hydropower needed hasn’t got enough water.
So, you have got to store the renewable energy in batteries to ensure an ongoing flow of electricity. The company that has won this opportunity, to build these batteries for potentially a million buildings in New York, is Zinc8. They have let Mining Weekly know in a conversation with them, that the cathodes in their zinc-air electricity storage system contain platinum. That is fantastic news. They are very proud of innovating with this platinum-containing cathode, which is part of the zinc-air system.
They will then take the green electricity that comes in and store it in the zinc-air system that is catalysed with the help of platinum. They have got an opportunity to do this in 58 000 buildings in New York City. That will mean that the demand for our platinum again builds and we know that demand for our platinum group metals is already sky-high, because the world is mitigating against climate change with the help of platinum group metals, which are hosted overwhelmingly in South Africa.
Carelse: The iron-ore price is soaring to unprecedented heights and South Africa stands to benefit.
Creamer: Again, the mining industry is booming at the moment and the tax potential for the South African fiscus is going to be colossal. The mining industry paid record taxes from the in December and when it comes to June, South Africa is going to be astounded by the amount of money that comes from the mining industry into the coffers of SARS, just at a time when South Africa needs it.
Not only that, the foreign exchange that comes in is so important to this economy and it is also going to be substantial from the export of our metals and minerals. If you look at the iron-ore price, which has skyrocketed, and at our biggest iron-ore company Kumba Iron Ore, the prospects are excellent. If you had bought R100 000 worth of shares in Kumba Iron Ore five-years ago, when the iron-ore price hit rock bottom, that would be worth close to R3-million at the moment, because we have seen a 2 650% surge in the Kumba share price since January 2016. So, you have this euphoric rise, but it also comes against the background of being in the lowest rung of hell just over five years ago.
This is why a special letter was written to President Cyril Ramaphosa this week saying this cyclical nature of mining needs to have special legislation. Let’s create a legislative framework so that we can cope with all weathers and cycles so that mines are not forced to close in the downturns because of the bad situations, as we saw five years ago. If mines had closed then, we wouldn’t have this huge benefit now, the benefit of a very high iron-ore price, which has rocketed above the $700 a ton mark. In the immediate term, however, there is one big plea: Transnet, please get your act together, even if you have to create a couple of rail loops on the iron-ore line, do it fast because we want to get maximum iron-ore out of Saldanha Bay and into the market so that we can really create a great influx of money into the country.
Carelse: Gold mining companies are going all out to be greener and cleaner.
Creamer: This is incredible. The investors in mining are saying: ‘you’d better get greener and you better get cleaner, otherwise we’ll pull our shares out of you’. This is creating a wonderful response around the mining world, because there is also a business case in going green. Now we see AngloGold Ashanti, which is listed in South Africa, although no longer mining here, going on a greening spree.
All their mines in Africa, Australia and South America are investigation the implementation of renewable energy, because they are wanting to conform to what is required now by investors. We saw Gold Fields last week deciding on 40 MW of sun power for their gold mine in Gauteng. We’re going to get 40 MW of sun power to electrify the big South Deep mine, which is a deep gold mine and a mechanised gold mine that wants to be a cleaner gold mine.
To be that, it is also and putting in special diesel particulate filters so that diesel in the meantime doesn’t pollute the underground workers. In the long term, they want electric vehicles underground to ensure that it is green and clean down there.
Carelse: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.