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Aug 17, 2012

17/08/2012 (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: South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 calls for more natural gas in the energy mix, cold-shoulders nuclear.

Creamer: Coal very much still there, going to be with us for 20-years, but what the National Development Plan 2030 is saying is, look to mix that with natural gases. What they are talking about is underground coal gasification, coal-bed methane gas, off-shore gas that can come from Namibia or Mozambique.

Also that shale-gas in the Karoo, they are looking to turn that to account. It has tremendous advantage for us provided, of course, the economics play up and the environmental costs outweigh those of using coal.

We are obviously going to be very dependent on coal, so they want to protect coal, not that they are encouraging the stopping of the exports but they are wanting a balance so that we can be assured of the domestic supply without interfering with the economics of coal mining. If you take out the exports, you take out the sweetener and the whole business case falls away.

At the same time they are looking for some stimulation in mining, because they find that we’ve fallen behind very seriously in mining. We are down to 1994 level and they also point out that the only way we can stimulate investment in mining is to actually get regulatory certainty.

They are talking about amendments to the Minerals Development Act actually being brought in so that this certainty can be given.

Gwala: South Africa is readying itself to host the ‘world cup’ of geosciences in 2016.

Creamer: This is going to be great for South Africa because we have also fallen behind on the geological front and to have 6 000 earth scientist here in a type of ‘world cup’ for geosciences in 2016 is going to stimulate our geological activity.

This will be down in Cape Town in four years time. Already the preparations are taking place. We got handed the baton from Australia and, of course, we beat out Morocco and India. India will now have it in 2020.

The last time we had this was in 1929. It will also be a significant date, because it is the 150th anniversary of the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and also the 130th anniversary of the discovery of gold. I think that also tells a tale, our orebodies here have been so huge that our geologist has sort of taken the back-seat to our engineers.

Perhaps South Africa has been over exploited and under explored, particularly now that you have tremendous modern techniques to explore.

Our Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu has been pleading for more exploration and I’m sure now that this activity here, staging the International Geological Congress in South Africa in 2016 in Cape Town, is going to stimulate that activity. Post and pre the congress they are going to have excursions into Africa.

That is also an important message, because South Africa has lost out in its exploration expertise in Africa. Again, they are going to try and sponsor young upcoming geologists to attend this that they can get exposed to the top minds in earthsciences at this ‘world cup’ of geosciences that will be held in South Africa in 2016.

Gwala: Black-controlled Exxaro will begin exporting iron-ore next year from its new mine in the Republic of Congo.

Creamer: We are not talking of the Democratic Republic here, we are talking about the Republic of Conga and Exxaro that is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but is still 55% black-owned.

Its an important external activity of our empowered companies now, being able to go into the Republic of Congo, buy an asset from the Australians, African Iron, and now fast track this development. They have promised the Congolese government that they will start delivering iron-ore from next year.

The government sees this as its best placed iron-ore prospect and the one that can get to market fastest and they are keen to see that it does. There are some other players further from the rail. The Mayoko project that we are talking about here with Exxaro is only 2 km from the rail.

Unfortunately that rail was built by the French in 1931, so Exxaro is going to have to do a lot of reinforcing to the rail and fixing up the port as well. That is why Sipho Nkosi, the CEO wants to get going fast, because he wants to test the rail and the infrastructure and he wants to test the market, because he is building up to an export of about 10-million tons of iron-ore a year from 2016.

He benefits hugely from his association in South Africa with iron-ore, Exxaro has 20% of the Sishen Iron-Ore mine which has meant a flow of billions of rands into Exxaro which has now helped it go into Africa. Then we see again that we are having to take the exploration done by the Australians, because we are not pioneering explorers.

This is again emphasised by the fact that we want to host this geosciences congress here in 2016, to get that pioneering geological spirit back so that we don’t always have to buy assets but that we can discover them ourselves.

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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