On-The-Air (06/04/2007)

6th April 2007

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


Font size: - +

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

Makwetla: Now, South Africa has the history, mind-set and the infrastructure to lead the world's third uranium renaissance, according to global experts.

Creamer: They were in town last week and came to Joburg in force for the Uranium Africa Conference and that is the message that they left with us. Southern Africa is really in pole position to lead the uranium renaissance. Why is this so important at the moment? There is the issue of global warming, climate change and the world is swinging towards nuclear power, including South Africa. The fuel that you need for nuclear power is uranium and that is why the price is going through the roof at the moment, hitting record levels. Against that background, what can happen in South Africa? We used to have 21 uranium plants in South Africa. Not that long ago we had 17 mines producing uranium. We are now down to one mine producing uranium in the Vaal River area and another one will come on stream in Klerksdorp soon. That sounds like a delay, but it is not in world terms, because Australia, US and other parts of the world are tied up in regulatory red tape. This gives South Africa an opportunity now to build-up on this mind-set, infrastructure, background, this history and to move forward into the uranium boom, which is definitely here.

Makwetla: Small towns are also quickly developing into bustling hubs on the Eastern Limb of South Africa's rich bushveld treasure chest. Tell us more about that.

Creamer: Our Eastern Limb Bushveld Complex is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of treasure. The world has begun to realise this. We have tremendous platinum treasure there, chrome and other minerals and metals. This has an impact on surface, where small nearby towns start to bustle as a result of mining activity. Three towns in particular are really starting to move now, Burgersfort, Lydenburg and Steelpoort. These were one-horse towns that people didn't regard as having growth potential in the past. An estate agent said last week that you could come to Lydenburg a few years ago with R200 000 and be well accommodated. If you go there with R1-million now, you are going to have trouble finding appropriate housing. That is has far these towns have gone. What is driving this growth? The platinum mines and platinum exploration. The impact that all this has is far reaching. Town councils and local authorities are battling to match the growth in population and the influx of people. This is going to be huge challenge. We see the new De Hoop Dam coming up nearby, which will at least provide some water, not only for the mines, but also the people. There needs to be a much bigger sustainable development plan. If South Africa wants to take best advantage out of this, it would be best to create a public-private partnership between the government and the mines, so that they can jointly engage in sustainable development planning to make sure that the area doesn't go from boom to bust.

Makwetla: An issue I am completely intrigued by. South Africa's competition authorities have once again sharpened their literary pens, this after ruling on the country's first-ever excessive pricing case.

Creamer: We have had our first-ever excessive pricing case. The Competition Tribunal has ruled on it in the steel industry and under the spotlight are the price of steel and the main producer of steel, Mittal Steel. This tribunal came against the background of mining companies bringing complaints to the competition authorities and the Competition Tribunal took up the case. We know that, with the Sasol-Engen case, the tribunal used some extravagant language, referring to Sasol, not only as a maverick, but also as a lone and hungry wolf. The tribunal has actually refined its language since then and chosen the language of the bard himself. Quoting Shakespeare's Measure for Measure the tribunal says: "Oh, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it as a giant." What the tribunal is saying with these words is that size is not what they are complaining about. You can have big size and big weight, but don't throw your weight around. This is very important in a developing country like South Africa. In fact, it is a milestone ruling, also for the developing world as a whole, in that it warns multinationals that they can't simply enter a country and abuse their size by charging excessive prices. Next is for a penalty situation to be imposed. The tribunal has to meet soon to decide on the administrative penalty, which could, as we know, be as high as 10 % of yearly turnover of domestic sales and export sales of steel. Those better at sums than I am say the penalty could be as high as R2-billion. So it could be a massive penalty, but then, when will it be imposed? We know that the law drags on, we've seen it do so in other competition-law cases. So we would like to refer the tribunal to another one of Shakespeare's great works, Carpe Diem, in which Shakespeare said: "In delay there lies no plenty", which in layman's terms means, "get a wiggle on".

Makwetla: 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


The content you are trying to access is only available to subscribers.

If you are already a subscriber, you can Login Here.

If you are not a subscriber, you can subscribe now, by selecting one of the below options.

For more information or assistance, please contact us at

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?