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On-The-Air (17/02/2023)


17th February 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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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: Attractive new financial incentives are turning the US into a favoured mining investment destination.

Creamer: The US has never been a great mining country, yet they are outstripping us here. We are the biggest manganese miners. We just heard from one of the South African manganese miners that they are to invest in the United States, because they are getting massive incentives, because they need a special processed manganese for the electric vehicles in the US. Now, this processed manganese is already available in South Africa. No one knows about it, so investments are going outside of our country in mining, with very little happening here.

If you look in the latest Minerals Council South Africa booklet on investments, page 29, you will see we are in an horrific state. Other countries are creating strong investment platforms,  green industrial platforms. Everybody's wanting to do things within their own borders, where they are also incentivising beneficiation, that is, adding value to the mined products within their own borders, which is just what we need here, and are not getting. So, I hope that South Africa wakes up to the current wave of global change, because we can have a situation where we could shrink our mining through not pushing it with exploration. It’s sobering.

Kamwendo: Moves by India, China, Europe and the US into green hydrogen are highlighting the value of South Africa’s platinum group metals.

Creamer: Our platinum group metals have got to hold up, because the world is really looking at green hydrogen and renewable energy and those are linked to platinum group metals and fuel cells. I'm just looking at a picture of the Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, who is saying outright, in the caption, “we have to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production export”. That is something that we must also consider here in South Africa.

We’ve got just as good natural resources, from a point of view of wind and sun, and yet other countries are tending to come in late, but they come in big on scale. China as well. We see that China is doing research into platinum group metals, they want to use that to advance in the green energy space. It is going to be wonderful for our platinum group metals, but we could also do a lot more in South Africa itself. When it comes to green hydrogen, the world is looking to green hydrogen as being the future fuel that is clean and green, and so hopefully, that will give our platinum a boost, but also make us consider what we should be doing at home, because we have got great ingredients to create and export clean hydrogen.

Kamwendo: South Africans need to go all out to turn the current damaging energy headwinds into valuable energy tailwinds.

Creamer: Yes, we should think of turning those around and it's possible. Centralisation is important at one stage and decentralisation is as important at another stage. Neither are good or bad, but you need them at certain times in history. You know, I can remember being a young reporter, when they said electricity must be centralised and municipalities were weeping and wanting to continue to generate their own electricity, and not wanting any centralised interference. At that stage, Eskom targeted complete electricity dentralisation to lower the cost of electricity. Now we see that electricity generation is out of hand. It's also very carbon orientated and people are saying now that decentralisation plus greening is a must.

There’s great news coming out of the Presidency about rooftop solar being incentivised, which we will learn about in next Wednesday’s budget. That will be decentralisation and the hope now is that decentralisation will now give us lower energy prices along with much more energy. It has the ingredients to do that, but we will have to wait for Wednesday. In the meantime, we could get a situation where we can turn the electricity headwinds that are facing us into electricity tailwinds by producing electricity in every way we can. We need to get our existing power stations going very, very well. Nothing like what we have seen like coming out of Eskom’s badly performing Tutuka power station, with a capacity contribution of only 17% and that has got to be turned around. Plus embedded solar from all industries and mines. We should not be afraid of having plenty of excess electricity because that can be turned into green hydrogen, and do very well.

Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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