On-The-Air (27/02/2015)

27th February 2015

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.  Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Kamwendo: The Impala Platinum refinery is taking steps to generate its own electricity using platinum fuel cells.

Creamer: What they have been doing there is suffering these load sheddings, which have not done much good to their refractory linings. So, the refinery itself, which is quite energy intensive, is wanting to move off grid and use platinum fuel cells. It is really like talking their own book. They have got the product, why not actually have these fuel cells installed there.

They are looking at 20 MW, which will cover them and take them off the grid. But they can’t go there immediately, so the first step will be around 2 MW, probably this year. We hear that the Chamber of Mines building in Johannesburg has come off grid. They have now got their own fuel cell, with platinum supplied by Impala Platinum, and they are taking Egoli Gas from Mozambique, scrubbing it and reforming it into hydrogen, and then producing electricity and heat. So they can do something with the heat, which is useful, and the by-product is water, of course.

We see steps also in underground mines they are looking at testing locos that will be hauled by fuel cells and also load-haul dump trucks. We know that in Japan there are going to be 5.3-million houses that will have fuel cell power. Is the new way here? We have been waiting for these fuel cells, that use platinum, which will be so good for our mining of platinum. We know that Toyota, Hyundai and other car companies are also coming through with fuel cell cars. So perhaps the fuel cell era has arrived.

Kamwendo: The Department of Energy has received a whopping 77 bids from aspirant renewable energy suppliers.

Creamer: With the fourth bid window, 77 more people coming through. We know the first three bid windows attracted 60 projects and the investment there was R140-billion. Now, with this, the preferred bidders haven’t been announced, but if you look at the score at the moment, 1 500 MW has come through on this renewable energy from the first three windows.

That is obviously clean energy, which we are looking for, the same as the platinum fuel cells. It just seems like the beginning. Other constraints are to get this onto the grid is a bit of a mission and Eskom are having to sort that out. That is why, I think, the preferred bidders haven’t been announced yet, but I am sure this will come through as they say fairly imminently.

Kamwendo: An Indian company is gleefully investing R9-billion in valuable zinc assets that South Africa abandoned.

Creamer: South Africa went off zinc, because China seemed to be the perpetual over  supplier. Anglo American decided to sell off all its assets in the Northern Cape, and it goes across the border into Namibia, four years ago.

Along came Vedanta of India, who is very keen on zinc and they took over those assets. Most of them were due to close under Anglo, but the Vedanta company has pushed those dates. Even Ireland’s zinc plant is being kept open far longer. What has happened is that these assets really paid for themselves before they have even started on their main target, which is the big Gamsberg project. Now, they are going to invest in that region $780-million.

That will be great for Southern Africa there, because it looks like we are going to have a zinc hub. Zinc all of a sudden because China is not supplying the way it used to, has a firming price, which was unexpected. It is only about two commodities at the moment that the prices are looking good, one is zinc the other aluminium, because people are so pessimistic about it that they went away.

Now they have entered a sweet spot this Indian company, which also has big zinc interests in India. From here they will refine in Namibia but with a lot of the raw material coming from the Northern Cape.

Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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