Sep 16, 2011
BHP Billiton|Engineering News|Mining Weekly|Transnet Freight Rail|Australia|China|Greece|South Africa|Gencor Mine|Tshipi Mine|Energy|Profitable Miner|Steel|Eastern Cape|Kalahari|Robben Island|African|Brian Gilbertson|Gillian De Gouveia|Jason Fairclough|Martin Creamer|Saki Macozoma|Siyabonga Gama|Eastern Cape|Engineering News
© Reuse this
De Gouveia: I see this past week you had quite an interesting trip to Kalahari with Saki Macozoma. Tell us a bit about that.
Creamer: The one time Robben Island prisoner Saki Macozoma is at the forefront of South Africa’s newest mine in an impoverished part of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province and I was down there with him. He is being joined by a great mining luminary Brian Gilbertson. Of course, Gilbertson saw the future.
He was the man who turned our Gencor mine into Billiton and then BHP Billiton and it became the biggest mining company in the world and the most profitable miner in the world. He is seeing the future again and he is seeing it together with Saki Macozoma and together they see a good demand coming for the quality of manganese that we produce down in the Kalahari.
The proximity of this manganese to the surface is shallow, so it can be mined quite cheaply. The funding of this operation is very good and also the broad based black economic empowerment. So it is all equity funding, there is no debt, they are unencumbered.
There they are going and starting to turn the sods and get this new mine, which is the Tshipi mine. The big issue will come with logistics. This is where the State needs to come in. We might have the best manganese in the world and a lot of the commentators there where just saying that this is like a dream world. People with manganese interests elsewhere saying the quality of the ore is just superb.
It is large, thick and shallow, homogenous and continuous. It is like a dream the one fellow said and another said that the seams are so thick it is like standing under a 16 storey building glancing up and saying that is solid manganese. You just don’t get that in world, but it will stand or fall by our logistics.
De Gouveia: In terms of the world-wide demand for manganese, what is that look like at the moment?
Creamer: If you are going to have steel, you need manganese. Any development in the world needs steel and you can’t make steel without manganese. The quality of the manganese in China is diminishing quite substantially and we see that this has got a 37% manganese content at the Tshipi mine. Nearby you get 44% manganese, whereas in China they are looking at below 20% at the moment, which means you need more energy, which then ads to a whole lot of dynamics which could create quite a strong demand for us.
De Gouveia: You were speaking about manganese and the logistics that go with it. Now apparently increasing the capacity of South Africa’s manganese rail line to Coega is being seen as a matter of national urgency.
Creamer: I’m so pleased about that, because also down in the Kalahari with us, in the sands of the Kalahari, was the newly reinstated Transnet Freight Rail Chief Executive Siyabonga Gama.
It was fantastic to see the urgency and spirit in him. He was saying it is now a national issue, it is one of national urgency to get the logistics right for these new manganese miners in the Kalahari. Of course, these are all new black controlled, beyond 50% is in the hands of blacks, so these are all new mines coming through.
Tshipi is one of them and there are another two nearby in the Kalagadi and also you have got the UMK. So, there is going to be need for rail. Trucking is just out of the questions and we’ve seen even young kids being killed recently with trucks down there. It is important that you get onto rail and he sees it as national urgency. He wants to go the route of the Eastern Cape.
They were thinking of taking manganese down the Sishen-Saldanha line and making that a duel-commodity line and there was some preference for that. He is starting to turn eyes towards Eastern Cape and say that they have a general freight line there, we need to turn this into a heavy haul line. We have an underutilised port at Coega, we need to utilise that fully. Where else is there a deep water port without a heavy haul line, lets get that heavy haul line in.
He is talking a year to eighteen months when they start moving on this, because the window of opportunity opens for this manganese at a time when we need to have the logistics ready. We say Brian Gilbertson speaking there and saying that he has been other momentous occasions.
He was the CEO of BHP Billiton and cut the ribbon at one of the important iron-ore projects in Australia. He said because of the investment in the mine, rail and the port, that particular country has seen 10% a year compound growth in iron-ore sales. He is saying look, can’t we repeat this in South Africa?
During the same period we were ill-equipped to see the oncoming Chinese boom and we only grew our iron-ore at about 2%. Here is an opportunity, go for it, see it as national urgency and get that manganese out. There is a demand for it at the moment and it is good that people at high levels at Transnet are acknowledging this.
De Gouveia: Now, at the risk of sounding cynical, there are with positives sometimes also negatives. We look at international investors at this point that are fighting shy of South African risk and actually awarding companies that reduce their exposure to South Africa, that doesn’t sound very good.
Creamer: They give a pat on the back to South African companies that reduce their South African exposure and we see a lot of chief executives coming under pressure now and saying you are too South African. They might be a South African born and bred company, died in the wool, but you will have analysts and investors saying reduce your South African exposure.
Now at a time when we have actually got to grow, because we have got more then 51% of our young people between the ages of 18 and 25 unemployed and untrained, we have got this huge problem, its not the time of disinvestment. We saw Rio Tinto wanting to withdraw from Palabora, we see the CEO of Anglo American, which was formed here in 1917, being told by the Bank of America Merril Lynch’s Jason Fairclough to reduce their South African exposure.
De Gouveia: Before we wrap it up, why Martin?
Creamer: We are shooting ourselves in the foot in South Africa. We have these on going wage demands which result in above inflation increases with no matching productivity. This is not just a one year thing, it goes on and on. We saw what happened in Greece when they did that. The whole country can fall apart. You can’t have above inflation wage increases on an ongoing basis without matching productivity.
Your electricity mine cost inflation lifts through and we have this way above inflation electricity increase with more on the way then you add to that the nationalisation word and they run away. That is a very bad signal that is coming through to South Africa at the moment.
De Gouveia: Unfortunately, we have to leave it there. 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
Recent Research Reports
Automotive 2014: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
The report provides insight into the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local construction demand, geographic diversification, competition within the sector, corporate activity, skills, safety, environmental considerations and the challenges...
Construction 2014: A review of South Africa's construction sector (PDF Report)
Construction data released during 2013 hints at a halt to the decline in the industry during the last few years, with some commentators averring that the industry could be poised for recovery. However, others have urged caution, noting that the prospects for a...
Electricity 2014: A Review of South Africa's Electricity Sector (PDF Report)
This report provides an overview of the state of electricity generation and transmission in South Africa and examines electricity planning, investment in generation capacity, electricity tariffs, the role of independent power producers and demand-focused initiatives,...
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
Road and Rail 2013: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2013 Report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Liquid Fuels 2013 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing,...
This Week's Magazine
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2014 report provides insight into South Africa’s electricity generation, exploring the issues of State-owned power utility Eskom's generated power, coal supplies, electricity tariffs and demand-focused initiatives, as well as the...
This month’s report includes details of junior miner Papillon Resources’ mining permit for its flagship Fekola gold project, in Mali; the Waterberg Coal Company’s feasibility on the development of an opencast mine, in Limpopo, to produce ten-million tonnes a...
A structured approach, wherein managers personally engage at each level of the project, is necessary to mitigate delays to the workflow on mega construction projects, says State-owned Eskom Kusile power station projects GM Abram Masango. The 4 800 MW Kusile power...
Construction of transmission lines to evacuate power from a regional hydroelectric project in East Africa, which was hanging on the balance following the withdrawal of financing by key partners, is now back on track. After six months of uncertainty, the African...
Three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between South African and Malaysian companies at the Malaysian High Commission in Pretoria on Friday. These MoUs are part of the indirect offsets programme South Africa is providing in return for Malaysia’s...