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Dec 11, 2009

11/12/2009 (On-The-Air)

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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: South Africa is gearing up to produce batteries for electric cars.

Creamer: Electric cars are on the horizon. We see Nissan are going to mass produce them next in both Japan and US. We see even Nissan in South Africa talking about possible local assembly of electric cars and we look at the battery side of it, which is really 25% of the value of those cars.

We think, it is going to be lunacy to actually import these big batteries, try and put them on a ship and bring these heavy cells here. The idea you have got to adopt is to locally manufacture these.

That is why the Industrial Development Corporation, which is a State-owned entity, is actually working on a feasibility study for producing big batteries here for these vehicles for the electric car. We see that the CSIR, our State-owned research organisation, which has been a custodian of very valuable research and development on batteries.

We know that even our Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has confirmed in Parliament that he is looking for a localisation of production of electric vehicle batteries in South Africa. Our South African Bureau of Standards have already produced two standards for these and they are looking to expanding the testing which will include the batteries for electric car.

So, definitely moves a foot, South Africa gearing up to develop and possibly go along the lines of the lithium-ion battery, because that is where we have a lot of skill and technology that the CSIR has developed. That is the sort of technology that is now used in our cell phones and laptops, but of course not on the big scale.

We find that a battery research centre has been developed at the CSIR, they are already producing their first very small lithium-ion battery next year and then the following year they are looking to develop a bigger battery prototype.

Modise: Patrice Motsepe's African Rainbow Minerals wining a contract to supply coal to Eskom for 17 years.

Creamer: A 17-year contract and this is the Goedgevonden mine. It is a very modern coal mine and they have spent R3-billion on this coal mine out in Mpumalanga. It is now producing. Of course, he has got a very good partner there, which is Xstrata Coal South Africa, but African Rainbow Minerals Coal actually owns 51% of that Goedgevonden.

They have got controlling interest. Now, we see that Eskom just awarded them a contract that goes to 2026. A nice contract to have over a 17 year period. So they will be supplying the Majuba power station. Majuba has always been a problem child, because there was a huge error made there.

We always build coal power stations on coal fields and what happened is that they built the power station and then found the coal was unsuitable. They couldn't get the coal and had to truck it in. Patrice Motsepe's African Rainbow Minerals Coal and, of course, their very good partner Xstrata Coal, will be supplying, hopefully by rail, to Majuba to keep the coal fires burning there.

Also, in that coal field they may one day be able to resurrect something through the process of underground coal gasification. In the meanwhile, this is a 17-year contract.

Modise: Nelson Mandela's grandson, Zondwa, buying yet another gold mine - his fourth in as many months.

Creamer: You know, Zondwa Mandela the Aurora company he heads has now spent more then R1-billion on gold assets and he has got a clear strategy - he goes for stressed assets. When something is in liquidation he goes for it.

We saw him buy Orkney out of liquidation, Grootvlei and other East Rand gold properties out of liquidation. The odd one out was Primrose, but that is a very small mine that he has bought and he is using it to train up people. Now the latest is that he spent R376-million to buy 60% of Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, which is also stressed. It was in judicial management. He has come in as the helper to capitalise this.

So, not only does he spend on the capital purchases but he puts in operating capital and he has got fantastic partners from Malaysia - AM Equity, which is a private equity company not short of cash. They are looking to going onto the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

They are working on that, to list possibly Aurora on the JSE. We also see a lot of other iconic names associated. The chairman of Aurora is Kulubuse Zuma, who is the nephew of our President Jacob Zuma, and even Jacob Zuma's lawyer Michael Hulley, he is also in on the act as one of the people involved with Aurora, which is now big in gold and they want to be big in Africa and also in other commodities and I hear a whisper about diamonds aswell.

Modise: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Martin, you will be taking your usual seasonal break. He will be back At the Coalface with renewed vigour and we expect him back here January 15 next year.

Creamer: Thanks Tim.



Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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