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’s first-ever platinum coins – the Elephant bullion coins – have sold like hot cakes around the world.
Creamer: It’s fantastic. Covid-19 has actually brought great demand for precious metal coins. The gold and silver has been going. We have never really had a local platinum coin, but we put the Elephant coin into the market and it sold out. If we could export more of them, we would actually be doing a lot of business at the moment. In fact, the world is short of platinum coins, because besides the Elephant coin, the Canadians have got the Maple Leaf and the Austrians have got the Philharmonic.
Those also virtually sold out in the US and Japan particularly. So, if we had had a lot more coins available, I think we would’ve sold them. But, in the meantime because of the shortage of platinum coins, the price has actually gone at a premium, so that has been a fantastic benefit. Of course, every few months now, we are going to launch other platinum coins. The Lion platinum bullion coin is next and then comes the Rhino coin. We will have the Big Five in this series of coins, which will do a lot for platinum.
The Elephant coin has given the series a good start. The promoters of the Big Five platinum coins are the same people who have promoted gold with the Krugerrand, which is the biggest selling coin in the history of the world. Something like 60-million pieces have been sold, so hopefully we can do more with platinum.
Kamwendo: Twenty mineworkers who tested Covid positive this week have been prevented from going underground.
Creamer: The big thing is that you must not let these workers go underground if they test Covid positive. I know we had that big scare at Marula mine over the weekend and it was all about proactivity. They were asymptomatic, that is the new word, people are not showing symptoms. They come in to work and they are screened and they still don’t show symptoms, but when they’re tested, they’re found to be positive.
We saw at the Marula platinum mine n Limpopo, 19 people out of 280 tested positive. Not all of them were mineworkers, five of them were health workers. So, the clinic had to be closed for cleaning and the mine had to be temporarily suspended. We’re seeing the same thing now with Harmony Gold, at their Kalgold opencast mine. When screened, the mineworkers were asymptomatic, but once they got beyond the screening and were tested, they two were found to be Covid positive.
So, again they had to partially shut the mine. This is what is happening and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has acted very swiftly in getting to various of these sites. He brought the provincial governments and the mines together and has emphasised the fact that people coming in from what they call epicentres, one of those is the Eastern Cape, they must be quarantined and then tested, but they must not go underground unless these tests have been done, because once you start going underground, the spread could be so fast it would be worrying. Also, the transport down underground, going down in those skips, people have to be close and that is where they have to wear a lot of personal protective equipment and masks and also face shields, as the law is now stating.
Kamwendo: Strict Covid guidelines for South Africa’s mines have been reinforced in a Gazette notice just issued.
Creamer: We had the private sector coming along with their Standard Operating Procedures known as SOP. Then came the government with the Code of Practice, known as the COP. What has been interesting is that virtually 99% of what was in the private sector SOP is now in the public sector COP. So there is a lot of overlap.
There are just a few sections where there could be some word misinterpretations and that is what the industry always fears, because once you have these misinterpretations a lot of things can happen that haven’t been premeditated. The one clause section 184.108.40.206 is that mines have to quarantine people and then keep them for 14 days. Sometimes there are large numbers and there is a fear of concentration camp-type of conditions developing and they still want the flexibility for these people to be able to use non-mine quarantine areas or self-isolate at home.
That is just a bit of debate that is going on but otherwise 99% of what the private sector was doing, the public sector is now saying they have to do. There are criminal implications if you don’t actually set this in motion, but the criminal implications aren’t about breaking procedure, they are about setting the gazetted Covid guideline in motion and the implementation of the guideline in motion. If you don’t do that, it is a criminal offence.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.