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: South Africa is ahead of the world in the new race to develop innovative ‘power fuels’ that prevent climate change.
Creamer: It is fantastic news about power fuels and they are linking it directly to sun and wind energy. What they want to use is sun energy, the renewable energy, to get the hydrogen from water. Once you have got the hydrogen from water, that most abundant gas on earth, they want to use that for a multiplicity of applications.
The first is to use it in a fuel cell, which we have been talking about for so many years now, because we are in the full knowledge that South Africa is involved so deeply in fuel cells because it requires platinum and we are the world’s biggest producer of platinum. Then they want to take it one step further, and again South Africa is in pole position because they want to use the Fischer Tropsch technology, which we have been perfecting for the last 68 years - Sasol and PetroSA need to apply pressure and temperature to that hydrogen to give us petrol and diesel cleaner then we have ever had in our lives before.
They are saying that why we are in such a good position to do this is not only because of our knowledge of the technology with the Ficher Tropsch, but also because we have got superior sun energy and we have got prime wind energy that can make us competitive.
Kamwendo: An Australian company is selling its four big South African coal mines in Mpumalanga to new black owners.
Creamer: This is South32, a company that is mainly listed in Australia with a secondary listing in Johannesburg. They have taken a firm decision that no one will be able to point a finger at them about climate change.
So, they want to sell their energy coal. That energy coal currently mainly goes to Eskom. They are saying that although they want to remove themselves from energy coal, they know Eskom is going to need this for another 30 to 40 years. Those mines, and there are four big ones in Mpumalanga, they want those to go into black hands going forward. We know that there are some very big black coal mining companies at the moment.
The one is Seriti and it is not just the old 26% black ownership, or 30% under the new ownership, this is something like 80% ownership. They say that they have had a huge response of about 40 enquiries from people wanting to buy these coal mines.
Kamwendo: The Mandela Mining Precinct this week took its first steps towards the modernisation of South Africa’s outdated mining industry.
Creamer: Tito Mboweni has hardly said after his Budget Speech that the walls between the private sector and public sector must be bashed down in instances where we need research and here we see it at the Mandela Mining Precinct in Carlow Road, in Melville, Johannesburg, already quick out of the blocks to start modernising mining.
Without that modernisation we are going to lose jobs, foreign exchange is not going to come in. We are going to lose tax money. They are saying let’s move now to make sure that our gold mines have a long life.
The first open innovation challenge was decided yesterday and three South African companies have now got six months to come up with a fantastic drilling solution that will take our mines forward and preserve their lives.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.