Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’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: Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines has fallen in love with South Africa’s new platinum technology, which it is adopting, lock, stock and barrel.
Creamer: The prophet isn’t always recognised at home and we know that Pallinghurst has had this fantastic breakthrough with new technology, which has got a bit of a lukewarm reception from the other platinum companies. Pallinghurst at Sedibelo is fairly small, 165 000 ounces last year.
But, they are still going to go ahead with this R1-billion project and build this new plant, because this does everything. It slashes costs, it saves time, unlocks capital and even saves cobalt, which we are burning now. That reaction wasn’t the same in Zimbabwe. They went head over heels about this. In fact, the Cabinet decreed this week that all future processing of platinum concentrate in Zimbabwe will be done using this new cost-slashing technology.
A big thing for Zimbabwe is that the Kell technolgoy suits it so well, because it doesn’t use any of the electricity normally associated with processing platinum. It uses a fifth of the electricity and comes in at a tenth of the cost. In one week, it goes from concentrate to refined product. I mean, this is unbelievable.
The time saving is unbelievable. They have said in Zimbabwe that they are prepared to have all their concentrate go through the system. It will also solve their problem of indigenisation. You’ve had the mines complaining about this indigenization, 51% Zimbabwean, and it hasn't really come through at mine level.
Now they are saying, where it will come through is at the processing level, because Zimbabweans will own 51% of this particular process and the South African group Kelltech will own the 49%. In that is also South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
I must take my hat off to the IDC, because in 2013 they committed, with the people of Pallinghurst, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, to make sure they get a means of properly beneficiating platinum, which is so important in this region.
They have had this breakthrough and we can see now that you can go further with this and start manufacturing the autocats that the platinum is used in, the fuel cells, because you have got everything ready in such a quick time on site at low-cost. A lot of work has gone into this and it has been tested and retested and now it has come out super competitively.
Kamwendo: The Royal Mint this week announced the production of its first platinum products.
Creamer: I was so happy, because we need to have platinum promoted at the demand level. If you start cutting at the supply level it means job losses.
The Royal Mint this week announced their first platinum products and they are saying in the next few weeks they will have the first ounce coin, which will have the Queen’s face on it. I am both happy and sad about this, because we approached the Mint here, South Africa approached our Mint over and over.
They said we want a Mandela coin, we want the Mandela face on the platinum. This is a viable thing. The Mint never went along with it. I’ve seen minted coins and they have done tests at other Mints in the world, I’ve looked at Mandela’s face on the coin. I thought to myself tourists that come in here would love to have access to possible coins like that, it would create a demand.
People in Africa want that coin, people around the world want the Mandela coin, yet our Mint hasn’t come forward with this. We are also sitting on that reserve currencies situation. Is platinum going to be a reserve currency? Our Reserve Bank has not really pronounced on it. We hope that they do that, because platinum is going to become more and more important to the world. What if Japan uses it as a reserve currency and beats us to it again or even Germany, which is looking at a hydrogen economy.
They might say we can have this platinum as a reserve currency. We need to do everything we can to try and promote this and hopefully our Mint will rethink and do something with a Mandela coin, which we have been waiting for, for so long.
Kamwendo: Financial problems have forced a second South African diamond mine to be put on care and maintenance.
Creamer: This is Bloeddrif Diamonds in the Northern Cape. It has been depleting and we see now that Trans Hex has announced to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and confirmed it is going to be closed, going on care and maintenance. Another 100 jobs down the drain, unfortunately.
We also see this follows the closure in Free State of the Lace Mine. Again the IDC had about 74% stake in that. So, it is not good news, more job losses. We saw with De Beers, their 4th cycle sale of diamonds is down. It wasn’t as good as the third cycle just announced. So, not everything is happy in the state of the diamond market. Now, we hear that De Beers is going to have its first auction of polished diamonds.
We normally associate De Beers with rough diamonds, but they are going to have their auction of polished diamonds, which is pretty unusual, on June 29, and an auction as well, which is also very unusual.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.