Apr 08, 2011
© Reuse this
Gwala: South Africa is the real-life lab for new German mining equipment.
Creamer: Yes, this is a new way of doing it: don’t do everything in the lab, do it in the actual place where it happens. The German company Eickhoff, which is a family business, was founded in 1864 in Germany, right in the heart of coal country. Eickhoff is using our coalmines here to develop a new set of machines called continuous miners.
So, it brought out the prototypes and put the first prototype into the mines and it has gone already from good to great within the first model range.
It is a new way of doing things where you actually develop your product while they are being used, because then you get the good tips of what sort of improvements can be made and, at the same time, you are phoning the world and telling them you are developing a new product so that it can go into the market.
But, we’ve got it here, this continuous miner particularly because our form of mining is board-and-pillar mining. That is the way we mine and this is ideal for these continuous miners which cut into the coalface and fling the coal behind them and set it off on conveyor belts.
This German company, Eickhoff, has got eight of their prototypes in the market, backing them with a lot of people. They have 100 people with a third of them in the field to check on these things and using South Africa as a veritable lab.
Gwala: Another issue that has been worrying everybody well across the board, South Africa receiving a measly $400/t for product that it could sell for $100 000/t.
Creamer: This was emphasised by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. You can see the impatience developing and a lot of Ministers saying that we are giving away our birthright in South Africa.
The product he is referring to, of course, is the mineral sands, the titanium product that, when it becomes uplifted into titanium alloy, it has a marvellous price surge.
He is saying, “let’s get the benefit of that price in South Africa” and you can see him now gathering his forces. It is not only in South Africa. If you talk to any minerals Minister in Africa, if you talk to industry Ministers in Africa, they are all giving the same ‘b’ word, beneficiation.
Lets uplift. I think it’s a new era that we are entering into in South Africa and Davies is saying “let’s lead the show with this titanium uplift” that can also involve a plant that would deal with zirconium, vanadium, magnesium and silicon, but lets add value to these metals and minerals which we have in South Africa and instead of talking about it we have got to do it.
There is one huge constraint, energy. We know that we are entering into an energy problem and the government can talk as much as it likes, but if it doesn’t see to that energy it won’t happen.
If hasn’t got a business case it won’t happen. We know that the private sector needs to be led into this energy equation, because unless they start producing their own energy, we are not going to have things happening.
Gwala: Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of a human being entering space for the very first time.
Creamer: This is incredible. April 12, 1961, into space went Yuri Gagarin. That was the first man to go into space. He was sent into space by a capsule blasted into space by the Russians.
It was the time of the cold war space race. At that stage the whole world wanted to be the first in space and the first on the moon. At that stage Nikita Khrushchev who was head of Russia wouldn’t even name who his engineering team was. The engineers had to rename nameless, he just referred to a chief commander.
Sergei Korolev only got named after his death, that’s how it was. But, the immediate response was from America and at that stage President John Kennedy said that they also want to get a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Of course, he was assassinated in November 1963.
But, it did happen, before the end of the decade, in 1969 the Americans got a man on the moon in July and that was Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. It just shows you how intense that race was during the cold war period. Now what we deal with are far more mundane issues like global warming and the problems in the eurozone.
Gwala: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
Today’s organisations execute projects within increasingly complex environments – particularly in the engineering sector. The ability to successfully execute these projects is what drives the realisation of successful projects and, ultimately, the achievement of...
South Africa’s distribution grid is a twentieth-century relic, which must be changed to serve the country’s modern electricity needs, says South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) Smart Grid Programme manager Dr Minnesh Bipath. “What we are...
There is a disparity in government funding provided to integrated transport networks – bus rapid transit (BRT) networks ¬¬– and that given to conventional bus services, says Putco executive director Thys Heyns. “We have neglected and strangled conventional bus...
The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) is building 502 rental housing units, valued at R200-million, in Dobsonville, Soweto, which are scheduled for completion in June 2016.
Automotive component manufacturer and distributor Metair is centralising its research and development (R&D) work in Turkey, in an attempt to bolster the company’s ability to produce affordable start/stop batteries. The new R&D centre is part of an expansion plan in...