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On-The-Air (23/06/2023)


23rd June 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: The use of platinum in electric vehicle batteries could be a massive boost for the South African economy.

Creamer: Yes, the private sector has been working very well behind the scenes in trying to develop a situation where you can use platinum and palladium in electric vehicle batteries. Up to now, battery electric vehicles have been a market from which platinum and palladium have been excluded. Now, a New York-listed and a Canadian-listed company, which mines in our Waterberg in Limpopo province, has combined with Anglo American Platinum. They have engaged the University of Florida in the US to do research and development into the inclusion of platinum and palladium in batteries used by electric vehicles.

This week, the university said they can really speed this up by handing over to a company to commercialise this concept very fast. That will mean that South Africa's platinum and palladium goes into the electric vehicle market and makes those cars batteries much lighter and much more efficient. Up to now, South Africa’s platinum and palladium have been cleaning the air of the world using platinum in the exhaust systems of conventional internal combustion engine cars. But those cars are now being replaced by electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles.

So, getting into that market will be a massive boost for us, because platinum group metals have already penetrated the green hydrogen market and the fuel cell market. We have got people making parts for fuel cells in our OR Tambo airport’s industrial development zone in anticipation of platinum group metals being used in fuel for planes, trains, trucks, buses and all the heavy haulage equipment. Now, if we can also get into cars on a big scale, the demand for our platinum group metals is going to be so good for us, and it will really boost your economy.

Kamwendo: The hot Northern Cape sun can add huge value to our top-quality iron-ore, a global summit heard this week.

Creamer: This global summit took place in London. It was organised by the Financial Times. At the summit, the name South Africa came up many times. In one of the times, it was associated with iron-ore mining and adding value to iron-ore. It was stated at the summit that in the developing countries of the south, including South Africa, our hot sun and wind can enable the developing south to produce the green hydrogen that can add value, on site, to our iron-ore. Already, we get a premium price for our iron-ore, because it is such top quality. If we could add more value in South Africa itself through what is called beneficiation.

We have been wanting to beneficiate, Africa wants to beneficiate. Africa does not like sending its raw ore and then buying back the products made from the raw ore at many times the price received from the ore when we import product containing our ore. Africa has for long been saying that value should be added in the country where raw ore is mined, which the summit heard this week can be done in the Northern Cape with the help of the province’s hot sun. Doing so will also help our strained logistics. You have got bulks going down to Saldanha Bay. Perhaps you don't need to have those bulks if you add value on site at Kumba Iron Ore, in Sishen, and, even if you do send the ore as a bulk to Saldanha Bay, you can add that green hydrogen using seawater at the Saldanha Bay port, which means that when you export this product into the market, it's not only going to help the logistics because it's far less bulky, but you will also get so much more money for it.

That is what the South African economy wants to get: maximum from the ore that we move out of this country and export into the world and that can be done with iron-ore by using the hot South Africa sun to produce renewable energy and green hydrogen to enhance it to a higher value intermediate product.

Kamwendo: Apt investment in green hydrogen can provide full employment, a top global investor emphasised this week.

Creamer: This was again in London, the question was asked, what can green hydrogen do for the UK economy? The straight out response from the Australian investor was that the UK could get full employment here, and not just for a short period, but for decades to come. This is because green hydrogen is poised to replace the energy that the world has had for the last 200 years, namely oil and gas. The world is now are moving away from oil and gas into a new era.

This was again the message for Africa. The Australian investor was saying look, I want to invest in Africa. That is where the best endowment is for our move into green hydrogen, but look what is happening. The Americans have simplified investment in green hydrogen and investment bankers go for simplicity. If you get complex with investment bankers, they don’t invest. He said the new Inflation Reduction Act in the United States is having everyone flocking to there to make green hydrogen, because they make it so simple. They pay you for production. You know what you are going to get when you produce. He is saying so he can't explain to his shareholders why he is not going to go into United States first, even though you would love to come to Africa.

He knows that the best endowment is in Africa but has got to go to United States first to appease his shareholders. He says the infrastructure there is also so great, because they have got the pipework already set up. So, while he is going to invest billions in Africa, he will first have invested tens of billions in the United States in the immediate term.

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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