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: Africa’s most successful gold explorer this week hailed the ANC’s encouragement of exploration in South Africa.
Creamer: That is Dr Mark Bristow and, of course, he is a South African, now in Canada, and he is running the second biggest gold mining company in the world, which is Barrick Gold. He did most of his exploration in Africa, as Randgold Resources, which then merged with this Canadian company, Barrick. Bristow is the most successful person when it comes to gold exploration.
He has got six mines going on the continent. He is saying that it is fantastic news that the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee is encouraging exploration, because exploration can do so much for the country. He is saying what gold is doing for developed countries, we should realise it can do for us even more so. South Africa used to be the biggest gold mining country in the world, the biggest gold producers, and we are now down to number six. He has got the Nevada situation in America and he is saying that gold has helped people there who have been hit by Covid. You think a big country like America being very well off.
He is saying with Covid and the areas of Nevada really being desperate through Covid. To help out, the gold mining companies of Nevada have paid their taxes in advance. They have put R4-billion into the economy in advance, to help the people. They have even been giving companies that have up to 200 people employed special grants of money. They have even given their own employees money to spend locally so that they can go in and stimulate the local economy. Having gold at this time is so important that I think we need to regrow our gold situation and try and get it back to where it was. It is now only contributing 1% to our GDP, it used to be 10 times that. There is no reason why we can’t do it for gold and for our other metals and minerals as well.
Kamwendo: Getting the best out of South African mining starts with policy certainty, a top but retiring gold miner said this week.
Creamer: That was Nick Holland and he is going to retire next year after 24 years with Gold Fields. He has built Gold Fields into a world company. You could see that the Gold Fields results this week were fantastic.
The dividend that they declared in the half year was as much as they did the full year last year. You can see that these gold mining companies are doing brilliantly. If you can get gold going, it helps you to do well in the bad times, like we have got right now. He is saying the best thing for mining is policy certainty. He is saying that it is wonderful that government is not going to appeal the once-empowered-always-empowered legislation. They have decided not to appeal that, because it was going through the courts. He is saying that there is still some uncertainty, though, around mining licence renewals and replacements and that holds investment back.
He is saying that you just need that investment to go forward now, particularly in this time, because it will float all the boats. We need to really go for policy certainty. He also says that secondly we must go for technology, because there is more gold in the ground then we’ve mined. If we get our technology right, we can get that gold economically, even though it is at depth. The third thing he says we need immediately, because the gold price is so high now. It has never been this high at over R1-million a kilogram. We have never been anywhere near that before.
Gold is a bad news metal, when things are down, gold goes up and that is why it so good for this country. We have lost that advantage, now we must try and recover it, because bad news will come again. In the meantime, what we should do with existing resources, we should turn them into reserves. If you have got a mine that is already at a certain level underground, plunge it deeper. Go below the existing infrastructure and turn those resources into reserves and you can immediately start increasing the volume of gold that you bring to surface, which will be fantastic for the country.
Kamwendo: Africa’s huge Electra Mining Africa show will go digital next month to do its bit to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Creamer: This is the first time in 48-years that Africa’s biggest exhibition, the Electra Mining Africa, will not go ahead. It won’t go ahead with people being face-to-face and walking around at the exhibition centre, but it is going ahead with a digital version. This is fantastic, because people will be able to log-in, listen, question and share ideas. They will even be able to record what happens in these webinar sessions. Over those five days, from 7 September to 11 September, they will be able to engage digitally, free of charge, and make sure that we keep the momentum going around our exhibitions and mining and manufacturing, which this show stimulates to such a great extent. They will use the computer to give mining technology a lot of stimulus, until they can come back again with the usual physical format in 2022.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.