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Oct 15, 2010

15/10/2010 (On-The-Air)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor Caesar Molebatsi speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:

Molebatsi: Fresh gold is about to emerge this month from yet another brand new Witwatersrand gold mine.

Creamer: We think that gold is dead, but just 80 km south-east from where I'm sitting with you in Johannesburg a brand new mine is taking shape.

That is the Burnstone mine and it is part of a company that is listed in Vancouver and in Johannesburg and they have been beavering away for the last four years. Now, their timing is perfect, probably coming out this month with their first gold. They will produce at about 250 000 oz/y and the margins of profit are really good. I mean, their total costs are somewhere at $500/oz and we know that gold is pumping at $1 300/oz.

Then, that is not the only one, 30 km east of where we sit here, just beyond Benoni and Springs, another new mine is being developed. That is Modder East and is listed in Sydney and Johannesburg and is part of Gold One.

They are staring to produce at a rate of 110 000 oz/y. So, we have these small new shallowish mines that are, sort of, first in the areas of the last 30 years where people forgot that there was gold there and these people have come up and got that. As we go west, a similar thing is happening, as I've said before on the show, at Doornkop in Randfontein, where we are going to have another big mine coming up there soon.

Then further along, the very big one is South Deep, which is a Gold Fields mine and will pump out about 750 000 oz/y.

Molebatsi: Wow, well gold is alive and well. Electricity hungry South Africa is now beginning to look to the earth's geothermal energy as a possible power source.

Creamer: You know, geothermal energy, we don't hear about it here. We hear of solar wind, hydro and we even hear of trash gas, but we don't look at the earth's power, that heat in the earth that you can actually turn to account. Many other places do that and it is quite astounding.

We have all known of Warmbaths and Bela-Bela where there is that heated water that can be turned into electricity if we want to do it for the community. But, we didn't know until the United Nations environmental programme came along here and counted the number of hot-springs that we have - 87 hot springs is not too bad.

Then only a third of them are really being used at the moment for recreational purposes, health-spas and things like that. So, you have the potential to actually generate some electricity out of that natural resource in a very environmentally friendly way.

At the same time, we don't have those tectonic plates that you do have in other parts of the world that result in steam coming out of the ground and things like that, that you can actually use for energy. But, we do have very deep-level mines and a lot of our mines are needing cooling. Of course, once you've got that heat you can generate the power to generate the cooling.

This is something that is being considered now. Maybe more economic because of the electricity price that has gone up people are looking at all sorts of things and this is one of the considerations. With our deep-level mines, instead of having to drill down there to look for that hot energy you can actually use it in a mine situation to cool the mine.

Molebatsi: Do we have the technology for this?

Creamer: There is local technology being developed and there is a lot of world technology. We have been a little bit behind from a local point of view, but still we can do it. There is a lot of dirty water that also gathers at the base of a lot of these gold mines.

You know, you could use the energy to purify that water.

Molebatsi: The US developer of the flying car is preparing for low-volume production next year.

Creamer: This sounds like fantasy in a James Bond movie, but it is an actual reality. The experimental car, and they are not even calling it an experimental car anymore, is being produced by TerraFugia in the US.

This is a flying car or a plane that can drive, as some people say it looks more like that. It is about 2,3 m wide, so you can get it into your garage and then when you put out the wings it goes about 8 m wide. So, it is a two-seater and you would have to also have a pilots licence not just a drivers licence, so that is a bit of a complication.

But, from a petrol point of view you can pull up when it is in a car form and just fill up with your normal unleaded. Of course, if you land at an airport you don't have to pay parking fees, you can come home. But, what this company is doing is saying that it will start producing it in low volumes and by the end of next year they think they will be producing it at about 10 a year.

They are taking orders now. People put down $10 000 deposits, which are refundable if they don't get these cars. It is being done by a group of graduates that are also pilots. They are graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in America.

This has become a reality, people have seen it, it works and now they are going to build to order.

Molebatsi: Economic viability and affordability?

Creamer: Affordability is a bit of a snag at this point, in South African currency we are probably looking at paying about R1,5-million for one of these.

Molebatsi: 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
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