Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor Tim Modise speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:
Modise: Landlocked Malawi is pressing ahead with its ambitious $6-billion project to carve out a navigable waterway for itself to the sea. Sounds like a very expensive project.
Creamer: It sounded like a pipedream, but they are pressing ahead with it. They brought in Mozambique and Zambia, who will also be beneficiaries.
The big thing for Malawi, is being landlocked, they pay a fortune for their exports. It is all about logistics getting it to the sea and getting it to Beira, Nacala and even Dar-es-Salaam, 1 000 km of trucking. All the costs are going into transport and they are looking now at navigable rivers.
They go back in history and they see that the missionaries used the Shire river, as well as, the Zambezi river. The Shire river is narrow and deep and the Zambezi is not as deep, but is wide.
They had the European Union come in and do a pre-feasibility study and a German engineering firm said that it is navigable and that they can do the waterway.
That will mean that the distance to the sea is only 280 km. Malawi must develop their inland port, which is Nsanje, and then create a new port at the Indian Ocean and they will then have an outlet to the sea. This is what is actually happening now.
They are already starting to improve the inland port and getting roads and rail in and they will have these self-propelled barges going down to the new port of Chindi at the Indian Ocean. What looked like a pipedream has now become a reality.
Modise: That is great news out of Malawi. All State-owned mining assets are being audited ahead of a government decision on the creation of a large new State-owned mining company.
Creamer: Minerals Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has announced that there is a government audit underway.
They are looking at all the mining assets that they own directly and indirectly and they will consolidate all these and do an assessment on all these ahead of possibly taking a decision on the creation of a large State-owned mining company. Or, deciding to sell-off these assets, the jury is still out on that.
As we know we have already got an active State-owned mining company, which is the African Exploration Mining Finance Corporation, which has been active for the last 18 month.
They have been drilling and have been looking particularly for energy minerals. That is where Susan Shabangu says if this mining company is created it will be strategic and will probably focus on coal and uranium.
We see that the existing State-owned mining company has been concentrating on that and doing drilling and exploration around coal particularly, but also looking at uranium and possibly creating its own opencast coal mine in Mpumalanga before the end of 2010.
Modise: Something odd, I must say, for Gauteng were the world's largest manure-to-electricity plant is being contemplated and plans are being drawn up for the building of this plant.
Creamer: Yes, the company that is going to do it is Lesedi Biogas and they have teamed up with Karan Beef Feedlot, a very big feedlot in Heidelberg.
They have 130 000 cattle there and produce about 140 000 tons of manure. One can reduce the carbon footprint and Lesedi Biogas is coming in as an independent power producer, taking that particular manure, getting the methane gas from it, putting it through the necessary plants and alternators to produce electricity. This, of course, can produce electricity, this has been done right around the world.
They are looking at a rate of about 5,3 MW, so it is not huge, but it does depend on what Eskom is going to pay on its feed-in tariffs. We know that the National Energy Regulator has been working on these feed-in tariffs, so it is what Eskom will pay for these people to recover their costs and get some return on their investments. In this case it will be about 150-million looking at a R10 to the dollar exchange rate.
So, that feed-in tariff regime must be finalised and we know that biogas wasn't initially included, but that Nersa will be including biogas, so that would accommodate this manure-to-electricity project planned at using the Karan Beef feedlot in Heidelberg.
Modise: 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.