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 big spotlight being shone on the ground under the city of Johannesburg will at last reveal the threat of instability on the Golden City.
Creamer: We have had 100-years of mining in Johannesburg and we have had alarming reports coming out now. The first was at the weekend when we read that there is a potential for a great fire to develop under the city, because there is still mining activity there by informal miners. The claim was that these miners were actually also using explosives and detonating these explosives close to pipelines that carry fuel and gas. If these ignite it will make the fire of London look like a small fire and it will go on for a long time.
But, of course, there was retaliation from the informal miners via the Church groups’ Benchmarks Foundation saying that they do not use explosives and the bigger mining companies are actually a bigger threat because they are mining the pillars. So, we have got these two big different stories, one on the informal side and Gwede Mantshe the Mineral Resources Minster then moved in very quickly and sent the Council for Geoscience in to actually work out just where the instability is and if there is instability that must be correct.
There is still a lot of gold under there and lot of people are saying that half way to Vereeniging there is still plenty of mining potential, so perhaps something will come out of this that can create some wealth.
Kamwendo: South Africa this week removed the obstacles in the way of companies conducting oil and gas exploration off our coastline.
Creamer: Again, Gwede Mantshe has been very active and he was down in Cape Town when he announced that he will lift the moratorium that keeps activity and exploration for oil and gas not happening. Immediately the big Total said that they will be moving into our deep waters of our coastline on December 6. He sparked off quite a quick activity and he wants to do this.
He, in fact, wants to separate the mining legislation from the oil and gas legislation, because he feels that mining is to dominant and it has got the foot on the head of oil and gas and that so much more can be done in oil and gas exploration. It is so expensive to do that, that he wants to roll out the red carpet for these deep sea explorers to try and get to the full potential of our hydrocarbons under the sea. Hopefully he will do that and he has already told the industry that they can look at the new draft legislation.
He wants to bring them in quite fast, because we have lost so much opportunity by delaying the entry of oil and gas explorers who are normally in need of a lot of money in order to do things. One has to make sure that they are facilitated.
Kamwendo: Some of the biggest mining companies are throwing their weight behind the government as it moves to diversify the ownership of South African land.
Creamer: It was a massive statement by Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani to journalists this week where he expressed great willingness to play a constructive role in helping South Africa to arrive at solutions involving the diversification of land ownership and ensuring land productivity. We know and we have spoken about the mines having land and water.
Those are two fantastic ingredients for agriculture. If you can then bring the communities in, you can have a situation where the old style of just white ownership of land can change quite radically and people will get opportunities to diversify that ownership and also to be productive so that we can turn this into a Garden of Eden. We know that from this acid mine drainage there are ways of extracting that water that make your treatment costs free. If you can extract some of the fantastic ingredients there, including the potassium nitrate, that sells for a lot of money and it can pay for things.
Again, some of the scourges of the past can be turned into opportunities and the mines want to put their full weight behind helping the government to bring in a new land era in South Africa.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.