On-The-Air (11/09/2020)

11th September 2020 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (11/09/2020)

It’s that time again on a Friday when Update At Noon presents another Update From The Coal-Face with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.

Sakina Kamwendo: Minerals Council South Africa is working with the government to treble the size of our platinum industry.

Martin Creamer: This is the great news coming out of the PGM day and it brought people from all around the world, and they didn’t have to travel here. They just got onto their computers and we could all hear them, and there was tremendous optimism coming out because we have got Covid that has alerted people to the next problem the world will have, and that’s climate change.

They are getting nervous because they feel that the climate change will be ten-times worse than Covid and we cannot have these disruptions from time-to-time. People are now working together, holding hands and saying “let’s promote this magic metal called platinum” because it can do so much to clean the air and it can do so much to put the world on a new path.

The plan that has been drawn up by the Minerals Council South Africa is a firm one, and if you go onto their website, you can read it and they want the government now to work jointly with them. So, that means South Africa Incorporated – not just business – but business, government, development banks and everybody else who wants to join this to actually put on roadshows and to promote this marvellous metal so that it becomes part of the hydrogen economy.

We saw just a day before that Nedbank also had a big virtual gathering of people from all around the world, and Dr David Hart came in from Switzerland and he said that the potential prize for South Africa is big, and that we better get working on this because you will not be able to make fuel cells as such, but you will be able to make components and what about looking at the membrane electrode assemblies, which are the heart of the fuel cells.

That could be done in one of these new Special Economic Zones, like at Johannesburg International Airport, and they can be going into the market overnight. Distance is not going to be a problem, but everybody is saying that the platinum business in South Africa can grow from R200bn to R600bn a year, meaning three times bigger, if we just work together.

Sakina Kamwendo: Research has now found a new place for platinum in electric vehicles.

Martin Creamer: This was fantastic because we had a Canadian coming through and getting up very early, and he’s putting a $600-million investment into South Africa, into a new platinum mine – and we haven’t had new platinum mines in ages.

It shows you that it takes a foreign investor like Michael Jones to come and set the Waterberg going, which is an area that we didn’t believe had platinum-group metals but his father was a geologist and he had a whole lot of theories that they worked out.

They then found this fantastic and new asset – the Waterberg platinum-group metals project. He’s working on that now with South African-empowered investors and that they want to turn this into a positive account because in there is a lot of palladium and rhodium, which the world is dying for at the moment – they just can’t get enough of it.

What he’s doing is that he’s already gone out to the TVET colleges because skills are going to be huge in the way that he’s going to mine. Now, we normally mine under your kitchen table type height, that’s what we’re used to in South Africa. Now, he’s going to mine it at the height equal to about 13 storeys, and every one of his blasts will be a 13-story building equivalent coming down.

He needs to train people up, and we’re not used to that. He wants 1100 people.

Just before he spoke, from Canada, in the PGM Day Virtual Conference, he said that he has been working with TVET colleges and he’s getting them to register this way of training people, because he said that the training side of its going to be huge, but it’s possible because they’ve done it in other parts of the world.

He’s ready to go now with the big investment in the Waterberg platinum-group metals mine and he says that he has found that the investors are not looking at South Africa in such a negative way now because of the changes being made, they feel more positive about the country and he’s going to raise investments.

Sakina Kamwendo: Royal Bafokeng Platinum this week urged the government to make the hydrogen economy a top priority.

Martin Creamer: That was Steve Phiri. Now, Steve Phiri is the CEO of Royal Bafokeng Platinum, which is a black-owned, black-led and black-managed. There’s nothing about it that doesn’t involve the community.

There are 350 000 members of the Bafokeng community that benefit from the activities of Royal Bafokeng and he is saying: “Make the hydrogen economy in South Africa the number one priority”, because when you see hydrogen, you see platinum.

The world has realised that these two go together, and there is such an opportunity for us, that he’s saying that we should really prioritse it and get everyone involved that should be involved and market this metal because it depends on marketing and the world being aware of how magical this is in that it can help us clean up the whole planet in the way that the world at the moment wants it cleaned up.

Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. He’ll be back At The Coal-Face at the same time next Friday.