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On-The-Air (23/02/2024)

Martin Creamer discusses phosphate, junior miners and clean electricity.

23rd February 2024

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: The world’s first woman-owned phosphate mine is scheduled to be opened in South Africa this year.

Creamer: This has been led by Adelaide Ruiters and she has been slogging away for the last 10 years. It looks like 2024 is going to be the year in which this mine is going to be launched in the Western Cape, close to the Port of Saldanha. Now, she has done a lot of the exploration work, she has done the mining development, she has got her plan ready. She expects to cut the ribbon by mid-year, somewhere June, July.

This will be very important for South Africa, because phosphate is very important for our food industry. It gives us food security, it helps farmers to grow things. What is quite interesting here is that she is already wanting to step up to produce phosphoric acid, which is the added value from the phosphate. She hopes to do that at an economic development zone in the area. In the meantime, she is keen on also being green. You will see that what she has done is she has got a pipeline to the port, so that the phosphate will not be trucked, creating dust and everything else. It will go on this four kilometre pipeline and then when she does the flotation process, she will not use diesel, she will use organic substances that are environmentally friendly.

Also, when it comes to water, she will not use potable water, she will use an effluent provided by the local authority. So all in all, this is a big advance in phosphates and we look forward to this mine by mid-year starting. Then she is hoping to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and that decision probably will be taken before the end of the year.

Kamwendo: The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) have launched a fund to help junior miners to explore.

Creamer: Exploration is so important. We finding that our mining is shrinking, because we haven't been doing exploration. What the DMRE and the IDC have come forward with now is R400-million. They will be opening a window for the junior miners. Junior miners need to be supported - going into exploration is a high risk.

They will be able to access this R400-million, but of course, they are going to have to go through a window of application and the department will tell them what minerals they can go for to make them eligible. In the meantime, of course, this should not be the end of things, this should just be the start. We have been calling for this for so long and we know that in other countries, there is an important tax incentive in the flow-through scheme. If we follow the Canadian model that flow-through scheme has built the economy, nevermind mining.

If you go along to Toronto, and you see these tall buildings, they all around the flowthrough scheme, which is a tax incentive at the start, which helps people to start exploring, because whoever buys a share there, can claim tax at the end of the financial year. We’re hoping that that model will also follow, but that will be a Treasury decision. In the meantime, they couldn't wait, so the department and the IDC are going ahead, starting with this R400-million.

Kamwendo: Power aggregators are emerging fast to accelerate South Africa’s transition to clean electricity.

Creamer: This is the new buzzword ‘aggregators’. They are not calling them traders, power traders, because traders sell things over the counter and by the hour. Although, the licences that are being issued to these aggregators are called trading licences. What they do is you get the mini power producers, they call them IPPs, independent power producers.

They're from the private sector. They have up to now been linking directly to a mine. What will happen now, to give flexibility, is the aggregator will be in-between. So, instead of the IPPs, as we call them, these private sector power producers producing from the energy we get from the sun and the wind, they will sell to the aggregator. The aggregator will be in the middle, then the aggregator will sell to many different mines - big ones, small ones, short term, long term.

There will be much greater flexibility. They feel that this will really accelerate what mines have to do. They have to go green, they have all signed declarations that they will be net zero. That means they won't be emitting carbon from 2030, 2035. They have all made this commitment and the only way they can do it, is if they get help of this kind. But it is also competitive. It is also cheaper. It is cheaper than Eskom. So all around it is a win-win.

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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