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On-The-Air (24/03/2023)


24th March 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: South Africa is being urged to create policy certainty so that huge investment in exploration can take place.

Creamer: Yes, that is so, exploration gives us a tremendous opportunity here. At the moment there is more money going into exploration, particularly in Africa, because of the critical metals that are going to be needed in the energy transition. We are really not being seen as a country that investment can take place in. We were targeting 5% of global investment in exploration and we are below 1%. That is mainly because we haven't got our mining cadastre system in place.

They say that will be done in the first half of this year. That is a system where people can see what you have on offer, whether they sit in New York or London, or Australia. Foreign investors can then get interested in coming in and doing this high risk exploration, which actually built our economy more than 100 years ago. If we look at what happened then, we were an agricultural economy and in came people to explore, first for diamonds and then for gold. They transformed the economy to the way we know it now. Because there are so many supply chain issues. Once you get the exploration into mining you then have tremendous growth in the economy.

This is what we are looking to repeat here in South Africa. The steps are being taken but we need to have the policy certainty and security of a Kenya. Those are the issues that have been built on now and hopefully they will come into force strongly this year.

Kamwendo: South Africa’s energy transition is jobs positive and a youth dialogue on the Just Energy Transition has been assured.

Creamer: It was great that the public sector through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the private sector through the Energy Association spoke to youth about the energy transition and the need for skills. We need to be aware of what is happening in the world. The world is changing faster than we imagined going into the new era of energy.

This is a transitional thing that you will only see once in every generation. But, what is the benefit of it, is that it is going to be jobs positive. Because we have to go along with what we are doing at the moment. You can't just move off it, you have to go flat out at what you are doing. You have also got to enter the new era and that. at the initial stage. will be positive in terms of jobs, something like 35 000 additional jobs. Because of the supply chains coming with the new era, going to renewable energy and then hydrogen, there is a lot of activity down that supply chain.

So jobs positive is a big thing, but what they emphasize is that we need to be skills positive as well. This is why there need to be strong relationships with the technical colleges and with universities to start building up these skills. This is really pointed out very markedly at this association and DMRE meeting, which seems very positive.

Kamwendo: A major South African coal company is discussing the generation of a big volume of clean new electricity.

Creamer: This is Exxaro. They have been so far-sighted. This is a black-led company and it has always said that they must bridge themselves into the new energy transition. They are a big coal company but they know that they have got to move into the new era. They are doing it so well at the moment.

They have got a coal mine in Limpopo, which is going to receive sun energy. You will have sun energy feeding into a coal energy situation. They won't be taking energy from a coal-fired situation, as is the case now, they will be creating new solar power for their Lephelale mine. That is just the start, all their mines, the ones in Mpumalanga, are also going to go this route. But beyond that, of course, they have got a company which they own totally, which is already in wind energy, producing last year, 670 megawatt hours of wind energy. So they are really bridging this transition very, very well while at the same time making sure that they feed all the coal into Eskom, that Eskom needs. The length of the transition, we don't have what the timing is going to be, so as we have got to, we’ve got to move along both sides of the roads, flat out.

And this they are doing along with other companies, like Seriti, also a 91% black-owned company with massive big coal interests, going hugely into what they call ‘Seriti Green’, which will not only be wind energy, which they started with in Mpumalanga, but solar power as well. They've already got interests in Kenya and Tanzania, so they're looking at the whole of Africa.

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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