Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: The Mining Indaba this week pledged to give South Africa more access than ever to global investors who will be attending the upcoming international event.
Creamer: There are more investors there than in any other event in Africa. They are world class investors, but they have cold-shouldered South Africa for several years now, because we will have mineral resources Ministers come down and give a picture of what it was like to invest here.
Of course, these people do incredibly in-depth due diligence and, at the moment they find that it is not worth giving their money to you - they turn their back; and they also talk to each other and it spreads like wild fire. South Africa has not managed, even though the Indaba takes place in Cape Town in South Africa, to raise a lot of capital.
So, Africa has been the main thrust. Now, they are saying in view of the changes in South Africa they want to turn that and give South Africa a great opportunity to make sure that it can put its best foot forward at the Indaba and raise capital in a serious way.
Kamwendo: The government was this week urged to go all out to pull the struggling South African mining industry out of its unnecessary slump.
Creamer: When you think of where mining is now and where it was, we are now 4% of gross domestic product (GDP). We used to be a factor in strengthening the rand, the local currency especially during high prices of commodities. We are nowhere near that.
So, even if we doubled and went to 8% of GDP, that is what they are advocating now, to go to 8% of GDP in five years, because they feel that we can do it, it will have an incredible impact on jobs in South Africa. The feeling is that it will really increase the number of jobs. Even bigger than that the taxes that are paid by mining are substantial and they go into the community in general.
The foreign investment that it attracts is important, but also the foreign exchange because of the exports. They are saying now, let’s get rid of this South African discount, which has been preventing people from coming in here. Let’s really have an honest conversation with our investors, because the moment you don’t have a frank and honest conversation, if they pick flaws in what you are saying they will turn their back very fast and take a long time to come back.
We know that we have this very big Investment Conference coming up in South Africa this month on the 25th, 26th and 27th and even at that conference we should be trying to attract investment into mining because of the tremendous potential that we have here, because of our rich endowment.
Kamwendo: South Africa is researching hydrogen storage for platinum-using fuel cells.
Creamer: That is fantastic. South Africa is starting to take the bull by the horns. One of the key things in fuel cell development is the storage of hydrogen. We have seen the Germans doing it a lot and they are imparting it to us through various mining companies so we can get exposed to that.
Innovative research is taking place now at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the expectation is that they will come up with something that can make use of fuel cells. Of course, fuel cells use platinum and we need to promote platinum wherever we can, because it is our metal. We notice that at the Mining Indaba coming up they are doing a lot on electric vehicles, nothing on platinum. We are going to have to try and persuade the world that this is one of the ways to go.
We have the research now that forms part of Hydrogen South Africa - it is a project of the Department of Science and Technologies’ national hydrogen and fuel cells technologies project. This could be something that really gives us a good position in using fuel cells and, of course, also using platinum.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.