More raw chrome ore exported at low prices, JSE-bound coal-miner aspires to be consolidator, Sasol allocates R3,1bn for new export coal mine

19th March 2010 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Some South African chrome miners are continuing the frowned-upon export of raw chrome ore without adding value to make it ferrochrome - and electricity uncertainty is likely to result in an even greater increase in the export of unbene-ficiated chrome.

Read on page 16 of this edition of Mining Weekly of more exports of raw ore going from South Africa to China at comparatively low prices, despite government objections.

China bought nearly three-million tons of chrome ore from South Africa last year and paid far less for it than what it paid for raw ore from India and Turkey, countries considerably closer to it than South Africa.

The large volumes going out of the country undermine the position of local ferrochrome producers, which add considerable value to raw chrome ore and create jobs.

The Indian government, which also frowns upon the export of raw chrome from its country, has succeeded in quickly limiting raw ore exports through the imposition of export duties, while the South African government has dithered.

As a consequence, black-owned ferrochrome company Merafe has, once again, requested the South African government to regulate chrome ore exports in order to avoid the current "free-for-all".

Black-owned coal-mining and coal exploration company Optimum, which anticipates raising R1,6-billion in a JSE listing on March 29, sees itself as a future coal consolidator.

Read on page 14 of this edition of Mining Weekly of the company aspiring to acquire other black economically empowered (BEE) coal businesses, using equity at some stages.

The R1,6-billion is expected to be raised through a subscription for new shares and an offer for sale by certain current shareholders. Some of the cash flowing into the company will be used to fund the company's capital requirements; to repay debt already incurred for a coal acquisition; and to fund potential further acquisitions. The listing will provide Optimum with an alternative to cash for the purchase of businesses.

Optimum says that there are currently other BEE coal companies that can be bought on a value accretive basis.
Coal-miner Sasol has allocated R3,1-billion for the new Thubelisha export coal mine to replace the depleting Twistdraai operation.

Read on page 12 of Sasol already being many months into the construction of Thubelisha and also of Sasol Mining's output being up 6% in the six months to December 31. Sasol Mining's profit of R170-million was 88% down in the same period, however, owing to weak rand export prices.

Sasol requires Thubelisha to maintain its coal export volumes and also has other plans that ensure continuous renewal of its coal-mining capacity, either by establishing new mines or sinking new shafts. Brand-spruit will be mined out shortly, and the new Impumulelo is in line to replace it.

To watch a video on Sasol CEO Pat Davies' comments, go to www.miningweekly.com and click on ‘Multimedia' and then on ‘Video Clips', or access it on the Mining Weekly App on your iPhone.