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Photo of the Week

HIGH POWERED

12th August 2022 The National Energy Crisis Committee held its inaugural report back on how it will go about implementing the interventions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 25 to tackle load-shedding. Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, pictured here speaking from the podium, described... 

HIGH POWERED: The National Energy Crisis Committee held its inaugural report back on how it will go about implementing the interventions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 25 to tackle load-shedding. Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, pictured here speaking from the podium, described load-shedding as the single-biggest constraint on South Africa’s economic growth. He was joined at the briefing (from left) by Ministers Ebrahim Patel, Bheki Cele, Enoch Godongwana, Pravin Gordhan, Gwede Mantashe and Barbara Creecy. Photograph: Creamer Media Chief Photographer Donna Slater

SHIFTING SANDS

5th August 2022 Global resources group Rio Tinto, which producers a range of commodities including copper (pictured in the form of crushed ore) announced last week that it would pay a smaller dividend – a move that some commentators interpreted as a signal that the mining boom times are nearing an end. The... 

SHIFTING SANDS: Global resources group Rio Tinto, which producers a range of commodities including copper (pictured in the form of crushed ore) announced last week that it would pay a smaller dividend – a move that some commentators interpreted as a signal that the mining boom times are nearing an end. The company will pay a $4.3-billion dividend compared with the $9.1-billion it returned in the same half-year period in 2021. Photograph: Bloomberg

GAS EMERGENCY

29th July 2022 The European Union (EU) is pursuing emergency plans to shore up gas supplies ahead of winter amid fears that Russia will limit supply. Activities to save and store more gas accelerated after Russia closed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for repairs earlier this month. Curtailments of Russian shipments... 

GAS EMERGENCY: The European Union (EU) is pursuing emergency plans to shore up gas supplies ahead of winter amid fears that Russia will limit supply. Activities to save and store more gas accelerated after Russia closed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for repairs earlier this month. Curtailments of Russian shipments affected 12 EU member States. Photograph: Bloomberg

DEEP FIELD

22nd July 2022 On July 11, US President Joe Biden unveiled the debut photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, the image is of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. It reveals thousands of galaxies in a tiny sliver of the vast universe. Their colours vary, with some being shades of... 

DEEP FIELD: On July 11, US President Joe Biden unveiled the debut photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, the image is of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. It reveals thousands of galaxies in a tiny sliver of the vast universe. Their colours vary, with some being shades of orange and others white. In front of the galaxies are several foreground stars, which mostly appear blue, and the bright stars have diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shape.
Photo by NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
DEEP FIELD: On July 11, US President Joe Biden unveiled the debut photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, the image is of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. It reveals thousands of galaxies in a tiny sliver of the vast universe. Their colours vary, with some being shades of orange and others white. In front of the galaxies are several foreground stars, which mostly appear blue, and the bright stars have diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shape.

VERTIPORT PIONEER

15th July 2022 A little-known Singapore airport, Seletar, may well be poised to become a global model for the future of mobility. Bloomberg reports that Singapore has already signed two agreements with advanced air mobility start-ups, Skyports and Volocopter, which may convert the aging aerodrome into a... 

VERTIPORT PIONEER image

HUNGER CRISIS

8th July 2022 United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned of a "real risk" of multiple famines this year. "We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis," Guterres told a meeting in Berlin last month. “The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate... 

HUNGER CRISIS: United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned of a

STORAGE WAR

1st July 2022 Ukraine was among the biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil before the Russian invasion, which has sent shockwaves through global agriculture markets and has raised the risk of hunger in parts of Africa. While the war is expected to result in a 40% slump in production, the industry... 

Wheat image

DEALING WITH DEFECTS

24th June 2022 Eskom reports that it has made progress in addressing major boiler defects at the Kusile (pictured) and Medupi power stations. This, after encountering issues with load losses associated with the pulse-jet fabric filter plant, gas air heaters and mills. Eskom says it has completed 80% of the work... 

Photo of the week

LITHIUM SCRAMBLE

17th June 2022 The shift to electric vehicles has spurred a global rush for lithium. This scramble was demonstrated during a recent auction for a controlling stake in a Chinese lithium mine, which garnered 3 448 bids. The 54.3% stake in Yajiang Snowway Mining Development, which is undergoing a bankruptcy... 

LITHIUM SCRAMBLE: The shift to electric vehicles has spurred a global rush for lithium. This scramble was demonstrated during a recent auction for a controlling stake in a Chinese lithium mine, which garnered 3 448 bids. The 54.3% stake in Yajiang Snowway Mining Development, which is undergoing a bankruptcy process, was eventually sold for $299-million, after a heated bidding war, joined by 21 participants and watched by about 980 000 people online. Photograph Bloomberg

CUTTING EDGE

10th June 2022 French utility Engie will begin using an Artificial Intelligence-based technology from Google Cloud to optimise the value of its wind portfolio in Germany. The key objective of the pilot project is to predict how much wind power should be sold on which power market and at what price. Engie will... 

CUTTING EDGE: French utility Engie will begin using an Artificial Intelligence-based technology from Google Cloud to optimise the value of its wind portfolio in Germany. The key objective of the pilot project is to predict how much wind power should be sold on which power market and at what price. Engie will be the first customer to use the solution, which it hopes will help accelerate Europe’s energy transition. Photograph: Bloomberg
Photo by Bloomberg
CUTTING EDGE: French utility Engie will begin using an Artificial Intelligence-based technology from Google Cloud to optimise the value of its wind portfolio in Germany. The key objective of the pilot project is to predict how much wind power should be sold on which power market and at what price. Engie will be the first customer to use the solution, which it hopes will help accelerate Europe’s energy transition. Photograph: Bloomberg

SELF SABOTAGE

3rd June 2022 Recent incidents of sabotage at Eskom power stations, including Tutuka pictured here, have exacerbated the country’s load-shedding crisis. CEO André de Ruyter has alleged that some of the perpetrators are individuals with vested interests in the coal value chain. He has also suggested that their... 

SELF SABOTAGE: Recent incidents of sabotage at Eskom power stations, including Tutuka pictured here, have exacerbated the country’s load-shedding crisis. CEO André de Ruyter has alleged that some of the perpetrators are individuals with vested interests in the coal value chain. He has also suggested that their actions could back-fire, telling delegates to the Mpumalanga Energy Summit that individuals engaging in sabotage could, ironically, accelerate the demise of the coal fleet by making it less reliable.

COPPER COMEBACK

27th May 2022 COPPER COMEBACK: Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema says he wants to triple copper output in the next decade, an ambitious target that would require $30-billion of investment, according to analysts at BMO Capital Markets. Bloomberg reports that Hichilema is going out of his way to woo investors... 

COPPER COMEBACK: Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema says he wants to triple copper output in the next decade, an ambitious target that would require $30-billion of investment, according to analysts at BMO Capital Markets. Bloomberg reports that Hichilema is going out of his way to woo investors and repair damaged relations. For their part, mining majors, including those that have been forced to retreat from the country previously, such as Anglo American, are showing renewed interest.

HYDROGEN HAULING

20th May 2022 A prototype zero-emission hydrogen-powered mine haul truck was unveiled by Anglo American at the Mogalakwena platinum mine, in Limpopo, this month. The truck is capable of carrying a 290 t payload and generates more power than its diesel predecessor. A 2 700 hp diesel engine has been replaced... 

HYDROGEN HAULING: A prototype zero-emission hydrogen-powered mine haul truck was unveiled by Anglo American at the Mogalakwena platinum mine, in Limpopo, this month. The truck is capable of carrying a 290 t payload and generates more power than its diesel predecessor. A 2700 hp diesel engine has been replaced with eight parallel fuel cells, totalling 837 kW, and a 1.2 MWh lithium-ion battery. The haul truck has been described as an important step in the group’s pathway to carbon-neutral operations by 2040.

RECORD REBOUND

13th May 2022 Egypt’s Suez Canal recorded its highest monthly revenue to date in April, when ship-transit fees surged to $629-million as traffic rebounded from the impact of Covid. The total number of ships passing through the 193-km waterway linking the Red and Mediterranean seas increased by 6.3% from a year... 

RECORD REBOUND: Egypt’s Suez Canal recorded its highest monthly revenue to date in April, when ship-transit fees surged to $629-million as traffic rebounded from the impact of Covid. The total number of ships passing through the 193-km waterway linking the Red and Mediterranean seas increased by 6.3% from a year ago to 1 929 vessels. The number of oil tankers, liquefied natural gas tankers and container carriers increased by 25.8%, 12% and 9% respectively in April versus a year ago, Reuters reports. Photograph: Reuters

COLLIDER RESTARTS

6th May 2022 After a break of more than three years for maintenance and upgrading, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) began operating again late last month, when two beams of protons circulated in opposite directions around the particle accelerator’s 27-km ring. Preparations are now under way for the LHC’s... 

COLLIDER RESTARTS: After a break of more than three years for maintenance and upgrading, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) began operating again late last month, when two beams of protons circulated in opposite directions around the particle accelerator’s 27-km ring. Preparations are now under way for the LHC’s third run, during which a record number of collision experiments will be conducted at record energy levels. These collisions will allow international teams of physicists at to study the Higgs boson in great detail and put the Standard Model of particle physics and its various extensions to the most stringent tests yet. Photograph: 2022 CERN

DARK DAYS

29th April 2022 DARK DAYS: South Africa’s electricity crisis has its roots in poor policy decisions that span nearly three decades, starting with the failure to implement the 1998 White Paper. Administration after administration has failed to tackle the crisis, which has been amplified by stop-start investment,... 

DARK DAYS: South Africa’s electricity crisis has its roots in poor policy decisions that span nearly three decades, starting with the failure to implement the 1998 White Paper. Administration after administration has failed to tackle the crisis, which has been amplified by stop-start investment, serious corruption, construction delays and a worrying skills flight. The overworked and undermaintained coal fleet is now decommissioning itself, leaving South Africans facing the prospect of a cold and dark winter, during which there is a worst-case risk of 101 days of load-shedding.

WRONG TRACK?

22nd April 2022 Serious questions are being asked about the design of Transnet’s slot-sale process. The State-owned utility recently launched a bidding process for 16 rail slots, which will be sold ‘voetstoots’ to third-party operators for a period of two years on a take-or-pay basis. However, potential... 

Photo of the week

NICKEL TURMOIL

15th April 2022 he Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Bank of England are undertaking reviews into the governance, market oversight and risk management of the London Metal Exchange (LME), following recent turmoil that paralysed the nickel market. Bloomberg reports that the FCA will review the suspension and... 

Photo of the week

NEW NARRATIVE

8th April 2022 Sandton was definitely another country when the great and the good of corporate South Africa met with top ranking government officials and Ministers for the fourth South Africa Investment Conference. Nevertheless, Discovery CEO Adrian Gore was able to strike a somewhat real chord when he called... 

Pic of the week

EXPORT CONSTRAINTS

1st April 2022 While several South African coal exporters have been unable to take advantage of strong demand and prices as a result of Transnet’s operational problems, an Australian producer has warned that it, too, has only limited capacity to send cargoes to Europe to help replace Russian fuel. Bloomberg... 

EXPORT CONSTRAINTS: While several South African coal exporters have been unable to take advantage of strong demand and prices as a result of Transnet’s operational problems, an Australian producer has warned that it, too, has only limited capacity to send cargoes to Europe to help replace Russian fuel. Bloomberg reports that thermal coal loaded at Australia’s Newcastle port soared to a record in mid-March as buyers shunned Russian shipments. However, miner New Hope, which has held talks with prospective customers in Europe, warns that most producers have their supply contracted to existing customers and that there is only limited spot cargo available. Photograph: Bloomberg

GAS PARIAH

25th March 2022 At the time of writing, Europe had refrained from declaring an outright ban on Russian gas imports. Nevertheless, it is taking concerted steps to taper its imports in the short-term and wean itself off Russian gas entirely in time. It’s a tall order given that the European Union depended on... 

GAS PARIAH: At the time of writing, Europe had refrained from declaring an outright ban on Russian gas imports. Nevertheless, it is taking concerted steps to taper its imports in the short-term and wean itself off Russian gas entirely in time. It’s a tall order given that the European Union depended on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas, ahead of the invasion of Ukraine. There is also significant infrastructure, such as the facility pictured, in place to facilitate trade, whereas major new renewables and liquefied natural gas import infrastructure still needs to be developed to enable the switch away from Russia. Photograph: Bloomberg

HUMAN TOLL

18th March 2022 Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created yet another devastating refugee crisis as people flee brutal aggression. Pictured here, mostly women and children queue under a Ukraine flag to board a shuttle bus after crossing into Poland at the border checkpoint in Medyka. The hospitable response from... 

Ukraine refugees photo from Reuters

CLIMATE COSTS

11th March 2022 African countries are already spending billions of dollars yearly to deal with the impact of climate change, a report by Power Shift Africa shows. Spending is projected to be particularly high in countries such as Ethiopia, which the authors calculate will need to spend 5.6% of its gross domestic... 

CLIMATE COSTS: African countries are already spending billions of dollars yearly to deal with the impact of climate change, a report by Power Shift Africa shows. Spending is projected to be particularly high in countries such as Ethiopia, which the authors calculate will need to spend 5.6% of its gross domestic product (GDP), or $6-billion a year to 2030, to counter the impact of floods, climate-driven diseases, hailstorms and wildfires. South Africa, which is experiencing more frequent and extreme storms, fires and droughts, is forecast to spend more than $2-billion a year over the same period, which equates to 0.7% of its GDP. Photograph: Bloomberg

FISCAL TIDE

4th March 2022 Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana insisted that South Africa’s fiscal sustainability tide was finally turning last week when he delivered his maiden Budget address in the Good Hope Chamber, after the National Assembly building was seriously damaged in a deliberately lit fire in early January.... 

FISCAL TIDE

MULTIMARKET STRUCTURE

25th February 2022 The Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill released for public comment this month signals the official beginning of the end of South Africa’s long-standing vertically integrated electricity supply industry structure. It also caters for the creation of a Transmission System Operator to operate and... 

MULTIMARKET STRUCTURE: The Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill released for public comment this month signals the official beginning of the end of South Africa’s long-standing vertically integrated electricity supply industry structure. It also caters for the creation of a Transmission System Operator to operate and expand the country’s physical transmission network and play the role of system and market operator. Photograph: Bloomberg

OVERRUNS

18th February 2022 The Zambezi River Authority reports that it is progressing with work on the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDRP), which comprises projects to reshape the plunge pool and refurbish the spillway gates. The KDRP has been ongoing since 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2025. However, the... 

OVERRUNS: The Zambezi River Authority reports that it is progressing with work on the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDRP), which comprises projects to reshape the plunge pool and refurbish the spillway gates. The KDRP has been ongoing since 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2025. However, the authority reports that project progress has been impeded by Covid-related disruptions, which have resulted in both time and cost overruns.

SENTIMENT IMPROVES

11th February 2022 The seasonally-adjusted Absa Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 57.1 points in January from 54.1 points in December, remaining above the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction. The improvement in the headline PMI was largely driven by a rebound in the business activity... 

SENTIMENT IMPROVES: The seasonally-adjusted Absa Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 57.1 points in January from 54.1 points in December, remaining above the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction. The improvement in the headline PMI was largely driven by a rebound in the business activity index, which rose to 56.6 in January from 48.7 points in December. “An improvement in the new sales orders index suggests that demand looked better. In particular, respondents noted a rise in export sales, which could have boosted output,

ENERGY SQUEEZE

4th February 2022 During recent hearings into its R293-billion allowable revenue application for 2022/23, Eskom dramatically lowered the energy availability factor assumptions for its coal fleet from 72% to 62%. While dismal, the figure is arguably more realistic given the scale of the maintenance backlog, as well... 

Lethabo Eskom Bloomberg image

BEYOND MEGA-DAMS

28th January 2022 The world’s largest hydropower company, China Three Gorges Corporation, is adding wind and solar capacity under plans to diversify its business as the era of mega-dam projects fades, Bloomberg has reported. The State-owned firm, which currently has 26 GW of solar and wind installed, aims to hit a... 

Bloomberg Image

NEW ERA

21st January 2022 Chile's mining sector is preparing for what could be some significant changes that could include tighter environmental rules and higher taxes. Newly elected President Gabriel Boric (35) supports higher taxes on mining firms, while a committee will begin deliberations in earnest this year on how... 

NEW ERA: Chile's mining sector is preparing for what could be some significant changes that could include tighter environmental rules and higher taxes. Newly elected President Gabriel Boric (35) supports higher taxes on mining firms, while a committee will begin deliberations in earnest this year on how the environment and natural resources will figure in the country’s new constitution. The changes could be significant given that the Andean nation is the world's top producer of copper and the second largest producer of lithium. Both metals are seeing sharp price rises on soaring demand and a global rush to secure supply. Photograph: Bloomberg.

BOOSTING THE FIGHT

10th December 2021 While South Africa has not yet broadened booster shots beyond healthcare workers and certain categories of immunocompromised individuals, vaccine booster shots are likely to become an important part of the long-term fight against Covid-19. This is true not only for South Africa but elsewhere, as... 

Reuters Image

BOOSTER SHOT

3rd December 2021 As the fourth Covid wave approaches, Pfizer and BioNTech have applied to have their coronavirus vaccine approved by the South African Health Regulatory Products Authority for use as a booster. The vaccine is already the most widely used in South Africa and is set to become the first to be... 

BOOSTER SHOT

COAL LITIGATION

26th November 2021 Three civil society groups have taken the South African government to court over its plan to build 1 500 MW of new coal capacity in line with the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019. In September, lawyers for groundWork, the African Climate Alliance and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in... 

Three civil society groups have taken the South African government to court over its plan to build 1 500 MW of new coal capacity in line with the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019. In September, lawyers for groundWork, the African Climate Alliance and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action wrote to Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa demanding that the plan be scrapped. After not receiving a response, litigation was launched this month on the basis that the plants would violate the constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing. Photograph: Reuters

PLATINUM DEAL

19th November 2021 Royal Bafokeng Holdings accepted an unsolicited offer this month from Northam Platinum for up to a third of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) in a R17-billion transaction. RBPlat’s mines – one of which, Styldrift, is pictured here – are on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex and their assets... 

PLATINUM DEAL: Royal Bafokeng Holdings accepted an unsolicited offer this month from Northam Platinum for up to a third of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) in a R17-billion transaction. RBPlat’s mines – one of which, Styldrift, is pictured here – are on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex and their assets have been described by Northam as “young, shallow and well capitalised”. The Northam deal led rival Implats, which had been seeking to acquire 100% of the issued ordinary shares of RBPlat, to withdraw a cautionary announcement of an impending transaction.

TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH

12th November 2021 British naturalist Sir David Attenborough has emerged as the voice of conscience – and hope – as humanity hurtles towards a self-induced climate crisis, with existential consequences. Delivering an impassioned speech during the opening ceremony of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, the... 

 Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell for Reuters

HEAT, DUST & POWER CUTS

5th November 2021 HEAT, DUST & POWER CUTS: As the late and great Johnny Clegg and Savuka sang in their song titled ‘In My African Dream’, which features on the ‘Heat, Dust & Dreams’ album: ‘Something stole the promise from the light of the dawn’. In the current context, that light has quite literally been stolen.... 

HEAT, DUST & POWER CUTS: As the late and great Johnny Clegg and Savuka sang in their song titled ‘In My African Dream’, which features on the ‘Heat, Dust & Dreams’ album: ‘Something stole the promise from the light of the dawn’. In the current context, that light has quite literally been stolen. After nearly 15 years, South Africa remains in a deep electricity crisis. Those responsible have mostly left both the utility and government, but that is little consolation. Sadly, heat, dust and power cuts look set to be an ongoing and painful feature of this summer period too. Photograph: Bloomberg

FRAGILE CLIMATE

29th October 2021 The failure of rich countries to honour their $100-billion-a-year climate-finance commitments is likely to be a key theme as world leaders converge on Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate talks. Developing countries, including South Africa, will want far stronger guarantees that money will be... 

Photo of trucks transporting coal to a South African power station

MARS SIMULATION

22nd October 2021 Earlier this month, the Austrian Space Forum set up a simulated Martian base together with the Israel Space Agency at Makhtesh Ramon, a 500-m deep, 40-km wide crater, in Israel’s Negev desert. During a three-week mission, six astronauts from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Portugal and... 

MARS SIMULATION: Earlier this month, the Austrian Space Forum set up a simulated Martian base together with the Israel Space Agency at Makhtesh Ramon, a 500-m deep, 40-km wide crater, in Israel’s Negev desert. During a three-week mission, six astronauts from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Portugal and Spain will remain in complete isolation in a unique structure meant to simulate a space station. The astronauts will undertake a variety of experiments that have been selected for the project, in which more than 200 scientists from 25 countries are involved. Photograph: Amir Cohen for Reuters
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