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: Good news for South Africa is that platinum-based technology has been selected for a big new hydrogen project in Australia.
Creamer: Yes, the electrolyser that they are getting Down Under is a PEM electrolyser and PEM is music to the ears of South Africans, because it requires platinum group metals. It is wonderful that the Australians are going for PEM, because the only electrolyser I know of in South Africa is an alkaline electrolyser, which doesn't use PEM technology.
It is Viva Energy of Australia, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, that has placed an order for the PEM electrolyser on Nel of the US. Viva is bringing in the biggest electrolyser of its kind. Viva is going to produce green hydrogen and that is going to supply the fuel for heavy-duty vehicles. When we talking about platinum these days, it is becoming closely associated with trucks, trains, trams, buses and boats – heavy haulage – at this point in time. That is a big demand that we are quite sure of for the platinum group metals that we produce. As things continue, I think it will come down and we will get to the smaller vehicles.
In the meantime, it is the bigger trucks, trains, buses and boats. You can see that the Australians are grasping the big hydrogen opportunity better than the South Africans at this stage, Viva Energy has got about 1 350 service stations, Shell and Liberty service stations. But, in the meantime, they will start with using hydrogen to power big heavy-duty trucks. Meanwhile, a wonderful report from Rethink Energy, a new magazine that has just come out, is that hydrogen is now what it calls the ‘slam dunk of heavy haulage’ and is seen as the way for the world to decarbonise heavy haulage so that we don't worsen climate change in a way that we have been doing with traditional petrol and diesel fuels.
Kamwendo: Hydrogen-based steelmaking is on the way in Japan with the help of South Africa’s Anglo American
Creamer: Anglo American is an iron-ore supplier, and it has been associated with Nippon Steel of Japan for very many years. What Anglo is doing now is it has formed an association with Nippon of Japan to work collaboratively on making sure that when Nippon produces steel, decarbonisation is paramount. Now direct reduction iron or DRI methods we have seen in Germiston, near Scaw Metals, which was previously owned by Anglo American.
We have been DRI in action. Now Nippon wants to revert to DRI when it uses hydrogen, green hydrogen, for direct iron reduction, so when the decarbonisation takes place at what they call Scope 3 level, this will be very significantly reduced, which is so important, as a result of using green hydrogen to make the steel.
Steel is the backbone of all growth in the world and companies like Anglo American have to assist their clients to decarbonise, it is one of the obligations under the Scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 and Scope 2, they control themselves on their own operations, but when it gets to Scope 3, it gets beyond their direct control and they have to rush to the clients and try and assist their clients to put far less carbon into the air. This is what Anglo is now doing collaboratively with Nippon Steel of Japan.
Kamwendo: A South African mining company this week announced the commissioning of its new cobalt operation in Zambia.
Creamer: Jubilee Metals Group. When we see Jubilee Metals Group, we should think of Dr Mathews Phosa, the first Premier of our Mpumalanga province, who is the vice-chairperson of Jubilee Metals Group, which has seen tremendous growth in the last decade and more. It began very small and it recovered all the metals and minerals off dumps.
Here in South Africa it was doing that. Now it has moved into Zambia. I must say that Dr Mathews Phosa is full of praise for the legal framework that is up in Zambia to help people to mine. He is also now recovering copper and cobalt from the dumps there and the latest news this week was that Jubilee is about to commission a cobalt refining circuit in Zambia. So, they are going for copper and cobalt from the dumps in Zambia, recovering those metals. We know that the world demand for copper and cobalt is colossal at the moment and we see South African companies moving quickly into other mining jurisdictions, and praising those jurisdictions to high heaven.
We need to hear more about that in South Africa because there is not enough investment activity here. We need local jobs and investment, but South Africa’s legislative framework is not encouraging people to invest in the enthusiastic way we see them investing in Zambia. People were falling over themselves at the recent Mining Indaba in Cape Town. All we heard was that billions of dollars were going into Zambia. The President there, HH is his nickname, he comes over quite convincingly. He wants Zambia to generate a lot of renewable sun and wind energy, because Zambians rely too heavily on hydropower there, which is good when there is rain, but when there is a drought, it is a problem. So Zambia has got massive plans to produce renewable energy. This will also support all the mine developments that we see, such as the one South Africa's Jubilee Metals Group is developing as it moves strongly into Zambia.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.