On-The-Air (25/11/2022)

25th November 2022 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (25/11/2022)

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: A fuel cell factory is to be built in Gauteng to provide affordable electricity to the African continent.

Creamer: Fuel cells are the new decentralised power bases and we know that we used to have centralised phoning and then we got the cellphone and everything became decentralised. What Mitochondria is wanting to do at Emfuleni, in the Vaal area, is to create a decentralised electricity system using fuel cells.

The developers are going to spend a billion rand in phase one. They are going to start sod turning in the first quarter of next year. They will locally manufacture these fuel cells, which they describe as being affordable. The fuel cell that they showed me could provide electricity to my building, which is an 18 storey building. They will have modules that they can increase that, but it can also be much smaller. They’re looking to the whole of Africa and starting in the Vaal area with phase one. Funding is being provided by the Industrial Development Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and also from Mitochondria, the developing company, itself. Mitochondria is headed by Mashudu Ramano.

I first met Mashudu when he was heading up a fuel cell development for Minerals Council South Africa, which still provides their electricity with the fuel cell that he provided. Now he is going in on a much more decentralised basis and is looking to providing affordable electricity and doing so using green hydrogen eventually. But it is a multi-fuel system. So to start with, you can use available fuels and will Mitochondria will be the  solution provider – Mitochondria brings you the product, and it provides the fuel and you get the electricity from a stationary fuel cell.

Kamwendo: The world is heading for a platinum shortage next year because of large purchases of the metal by China.

Creamer: The Chinese are seeing the future. They can see how important it is to have platinum. We know that platinum has been in surplus this year. We have had about 800 000 ounces surplus this year. But calculations show that from next year, there will be a shortage of 300 000 ounces in shortage.

There will be a deficit. Why is this? China been buying up every bit of platinum they can and they got it at low prices. They want to use that for fuel cells and they want to use it for the electrolysers that produce the green hydrogen, and they want to make sure that they've got enough platinum to do that, without the cost of it being too high.

Kamwendo: South Africa’s crime crisis is ruling out economic growth, delegates to a major Joburg conference were told this week.

Creamer: This was a very important conference. You had the biggest businesses there. You also had non-governmental organisations and you had government representatives. They spoke frankly about our economy not being able to grow while the crime rate is burgeoning. You can't get rid of the burgeoning crime rate with a slowing economy. So, South Africa is experiencing a paradox, a Catch 22 situation. The only thing to do is to combine and smash crime.

They were talking about combining perhaps the security forces that are already in the private sector. There are three times more security personnel in the private sector than there are police in the public sector. Not only that, but these security personnel in the private sector have good equipment. They have got digitisation, they have got drones, they have got things that you can really track crime with. If they could combine for 18 months or two years with the police force, the two together could, the conference envisaged, smash crime to smithereens. That is what they say needs to be done.

Otherwise, we cannot grow the economy, but if we are allowed to grow the economy, we know that in 2008, we could grow at 5%. If we can continue to grow at 5% for 12 years, we will end up with an economy double the size, and it will be worth a trillion dollars. We could have a trillion dollar economy, not a trillion rand economy, a trillion dollar economy. This is what they are keen to really do because they say that these armed forces coming into business and the crime mafia coming to mines, they have just got to stop it. They believe they can stop it. They know where these people are.

They arrive with fancy cars and they stir up the community, and then they demand part ownership of mines. It's just not tolerable, and investment cannot take place, the conference heard, unless crime is smashed to smithereens, and they believe it can be done collectively and collaboratively.

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