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: South Africa was this week urged to mine the critical metals and minerals that combat climate change.
Creamer: The National Business Initiative urged South Africa to actually ramp up its exploration into critical metals that would decarbonise the world. This is where demand is at the moment and South Africa hasn’t really kept up with this. Other mining jurisdictions are very well ahead of us.
They are already finding the lithium’s, rare-earths and expanding on their nickels and their copper and we are not doing that. So, if we want to keep up the socio-economic momentum that mining provides we have to start moving in the right direction of ramping up into critical metals and supplying those for decarbonisation of the world.
Kamwendo: Steps are being taken to generate clean electricity from South Africa’s many disused mineshafts.
Creamer: There are so many mines on care and maintenance. There are shafts there, there is water in those mines. That water is really a battery. With that sort of battery development, if you use renewable energy to pump the water to surface, to keep it in an elevated reservoir, then you realise it when you need energy and you use the gravitational pull to turn the turbines and those turbines then generate hydropower for you.
his is what mines are looking at. We have got Sibanye-Stillwater doing this and Anglo American looking at this. There are a lot of coal mines that could also do it as well. We are hoping that there will be a new injection of energy coming through, real electricity from these used mines.
Kamwendo: The mining boom is papering over many structural issues that are threatening the industry’s future.
Creamer: Because the mining industry has done so well, people think that it is in a good shape. It is not in a good shape. There are serious structural issues that need to be dealt with. The one is from the mining side. There needs to be greater investment, but the other is on logistics, actually getting these metals and minerals to market.
That is on the State side. There needs to be a lot of cooperation now, because we are finding that a lot of the investment is going into Africa. Africa is actually eating our lunch, people are not coming towards South Africa because of the policy uncertainty. Some of them would prefer to go into a war zone –and the guy repeated to me ‘a warzone’– and they are doing that.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.