On-The-Air (03/07/2020)

3rd July 2020 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (03/07/2020)

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 Covid death toll among mineworkers this week rose to 12 – and there are still no foreign mineworkers back at work.

Creamer:  Yes, in fact the number has gone to 13, so 13 mineworkers have died, and seven of them are from the platinum mining sector, four from the gold mining sector and the other two from undisclosed sectors.

The province affected mainly is the North West, that is where the platinum mines are and that is where most mineworkers are actually employed. The gold deaths came in Gauteng and of the two other deaths, one was in Limpopo and one in Mpumalanga. What we have got to look at here is that 2 500 mineworkers have now tested positive so far. The number of deaths per positive case is at 0,15%. That is three times below the national percentage and nearly 10 times below the world percentage.

So, the mines are really concentrating their effort and doing the most enormous things when you look at their protective equipment, they look like doctors in operating theatres, and they’re sanitising and there is social distancing. Everything is being done in making sure that the deaths remain very low as the percentage of overall positives. On the foreign miner front now, there still isn’t a single foreign mineworker that has crossed the border back into South Africa since lockdown.

We need 4 000 to come in from Mozambique. They are hoping these will start coming in from Mozambique in the following week now. Lesotho with 12 000, we still have not had any miners come back from there. So, there are obviously serious hold-ups and a lot of constraint, which is going to impact on mining production in South Africa.

Kamwendo: Mining companies this week funded and opened their own 200-bed Covid field hospital and their own a R10-million Covid laboratory to speed up testing.

Creamer: The mines are investing a lot. We see that Royal Bafokeng Platinum invested R10-million in creating this 200-bed field hospital out of a change house situation that they had at one of the mines. It is really well equipped. Each of the beds has a TV set, they’ve got ultraviolet light there, killing all the disease, and it is really well organised.

Then, at Venetia, the diamond mine owned by De Beers, another R10-million has been spent, in a separate investment, to establish a testing laboratory. A testing laboratory is important, because the turnaround time with the testing has to be speeded up. They will have their testing laboratory on site, which means they can turn around those tests in 24-hours, which is a very good thing. They are also going to assist the surrounding community areas.

They have handed this over to the Department of Health of the Limpopo Province, so the people of Musina and Blouberg will also benefit from this 80-tests-a-day lab, with a 24-hour turnaround time.

Kamwendo: South Africa’s platinum received a huge boost this week when Europe opted for hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Creamer: When you hear hydrogen, think of platinum. When you think of platinum, think of South Africa. We have got this biggest platinum endowment on the planet. Now, the world is swinging to hydrogen.

They want to use this as a universal energy carrier to cut CO2 and replace petrol, diesel and aircraft fuel. This will in fact cut the global warming effect of flying by up to 90%. So, this Covid has also intensified the climate change focus. The world now is swinging and they want to use hydrogen-powered aviation. They are looking at hydrogen fuel-cells and those are catalysed by platinum. So, it could be a wonderful boost for us.

The whole battery situation will also take up our metals. I think that the direction in which the world is moving in is a cleaner one and that is going to help South Africa’s mining industry.  

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