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Feb 17, 2012

17/02/2012 (On-The-Air)

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

Gwala: The government’s latest approach to mine safety is evoking a howl of industry protest.

Creamer: Nobody is against stopping mines when there are serious incidents and fatalities. What they are objecting to is that mines are being stopped for several days now, losing the country billions of rand for minor infringements.

They speak about a rail sleeper that is substandard resulting in mines closing for five days instead of just replacing the sleeper. I’ve noticed that the former governor of the Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni, who has been in mining now for some time as the chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, at the presentations he has never uttered a word.

On Wednesday after his CEO was really peppered by a lot of analysts saying that production is flat, what is the outlook, what are these stoppage doing, he stood up in an unscheduled verbal intervention and urged the government to stop using a sledgehammer on the industry. He got the feeling that this industry is being regulated to death.

If you look at the non-fatal ounces that we’ve lost, in other words ounces that we would have produced and sold worth billions of rands that were not sold. It is like in the case of Anglo American Platinum with about 109 000 ounces of platinum not linked to any death or serious situation in the mines.

In other words minor infringements are causing these closures and causing South Africa to lose hand-over-fist when it comes to production and the sales of their metals and minerals.

Gwala: South Africa’s AngloGold has given the green light to big new gold projects worth more than R6-billion.

Creamer: This is good news, because we haven’t had an incentive to invest in mines according to the industry at the moment. A lot of the hard-rock miners, particularly in platinum are saying that there is no real incentive to invest.

So, it was good to see within the gold space where AngloGold made record $1,3-billion profit in the last year that their board took a decision this week to actually plough R6-billion into their cornerstone operations in the Free State and in the Gauteng, North West area.

We are seeing the Moab Khotseng Zaaiplaats in the Free State is getting an injection of nearly R3-billion. The Mponeng mine, which is on the West Wits, is getting more then R3-billion. That is over a five-year period and looking to extend these cornerstone mines for another 30 years.

Although they will be built conventionally, in other words they are not introducing any new technology yet, provision is being made for this great new dream that AngloGold has to be able to mine at depths never before ventured using new technology that is safer and takes people away from the vulnerable areas and goes for a non-blasting technique that Mother Nature doesn’t even know you are removing this gold from the area.

So that is going to take place in parallel that they get the technology ready while they start preparing the longevity for another 30 years of these mines.

Gwala: Sasol, which is best known for converting coal into petrol, is now pursuing power from a far different source – the sun.

Creamer: Sasol has let it be known that they have gone into a partnership with Americans and French to develop what they call a power tower. The design is being undertaken now and there should be some sort of finality on it in the third quarter of this year.

So they have roped in Brightsource Energy of the US, which is building a very big solar power project in the Californian Desert and also the French Alstom which is cross-shareholding with Brightsource to investigate the feasibility of putting up a concentrated solar power project. That is again the use of mirrors and heliostats to direct the rays of the sun to a concentrated point.

Thereafter, that is why the French Alstom is involved, you go back to conventional way of producing electricity because you use that heat that is directed to a boiler to raise steam, just like you do in a normal power station and then to turn the turbines to generate the electricity. In actual fact, if you look at the situation, if they get very well versed with this concentrated solar power they could apply it at our normal power stations.

Why not have, in addition to your coal-fired steam raising, also solar-powered steam raising to add that new dimension. So, we are mixing the old technologies with the new technologies and you can see them coming together now and Sasol preparing to do this.

Also, when we look around at these urban areas and we see a lot of mine dumps and slimes dams we know that even though they reprocess those and they take the gold out of it and everything they can, there is still going to be that material that has to be dumped.

These are normally dumped in the new slimes dam-type structure which is 30 metres high and flat on top, those could be perhaps sites for new big solar power projects where you could have concentrated solar power perhaps on an old slimes dam or mine dump as we call them. That could be combining the old with the new again making use of the old sites for a new technology and they are calling it concentrated solar power.

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
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