On-The-Air (12/03/2021)

12th March 2021

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 black-owned mining company Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) is studying the feasibility of generating its own green electricity.

Creamer: This is fantastic news from RBPlat. They want to generate 30 MW of their own electricity. They are hoping that their feasibility study will be completed by the end of the year. What they are also talking about is using the excess of that to generate green hydrogen, because they have got the Styldrift mine and underground there is mechanisation.

So, there are fleets of mechanised vehicles that currently ride on diesel. What they want to do is to try and replace that diesel with green-hydrogen, which has tremendous benefits for the environment. The whole world is trying to move towards climate change mitigation and all these efforts that are taking place in mining are helping that cause making sure that we don’t exaggerate the temperature of the planet and getting things done. The whole atmosphere at RBPlat is really cock-a-hoop at the moment, because they are celebrating their 10 years of having listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

I can remember when they listed on the JSE, it was quite unusual, because they had all their workers there singing and dancing. That has been the whole atmosphere and the number of houses they have built for their workers now is astounding. This is ownership, so the workers go in and buy dignified homes and live close to the mine, which is a very important aspect for productivity. So, the activities out on the North West are very positive with regard not only to environment but also social development.

Kamwendo: China became South Africa’s largest coal export market in the month of February.

Creamer: This is unusual, because our biggest importer of South African coal is India normally. That is out traditional big buyer. Because of the tick-tack between Australia and China, and China are refusing now to get thermal coal in from Australia. They are looking to other markets, so of course, they will go to Indonesia, which is pretty close, and they will also go to Russia.

We will see that more exports than ever are going through from South Africa to China and at good prices. This is an important development for us, because at the moment the world is not keen on coal and you need to ensure that your markets are continuing. With this development here from China, we will have better demand on our coal from Richards Bay Coal Terminal, which is a world-class terminal and which has spent a lot of money to upgrade its equipment and now is looking to overland conveying to get those ships not queuing up outside there to get loaded with coal fast and to get into the market.

China now our biggest market for February and probably will continue to be for some time, that is the expectation.

Kamwendo: Mines anywhere and everywhere can go green and decarbonisation is shaping the future of the mining industry the world over.

Creamer: There is no excuse for the mines, says this company, which is very well connected, it is called Hydrogen Optimized. The head of that company and the family that run that company, the Stuarts, they have got direct links going to the famous scientist, Michael Faraday, and to Sir William Grove, who invented the fuel cell.

They speak with great credibility and they were talking at a Fasken-hosted webinar. It was mainly Canadian-orientated and they were saying that the sun and wind are ubiquitous, which means that the wind and the sun are everywhere. There is no excuse now from mines not to do things that are green and clean, because they can access that renewable energy. They can use it then to produce the clean hydrogen they are talking about and they can help Mother Earth by making sure that there is not terrible pollution. Of course, reference is made to the fact that South Africa is the biggest host of platinum group metals and it is those magic metals that convert that green hydrogen into electricity to drive the fleet to do things that need mobility. Also to generate electricity.

The only emission is water, so it is an incredible development. When you think that this company is preaching this is over 100-years-old and was linked to the father and inventor of the fuel cell, it becomes very significant.

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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