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 Africans are spearheading a new mining thrust in bauxite-rich West Africa.
Creamer: South Africans have got a lot of mining know-how and do see gaps. Of course they should see them with greater alacrity than the Australians and Canadians, who normally get there ahead of us. We see now Adonis Pouroulis, whom we know from these parts, as the founder of Petra Diamonds, which has done pretty well and listed on the London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market and now on the main board. He is moving into Guinea in West Africa to pursue bauxite reserves. Guinea hosts about a quarter of the world’s bauxite reserves.
He is hoping with move with Alufer and to raise capital again on the Aim-market in London and use it this time for exploration. With his past, Petra, activity he was an acquirer of discard assets from De Beers, so he got half a dozen of those diamond mines that De Beers didn’t want anymore and he is doing very well with those, including Cullinan, up in Pretoria. This time around, he is going to go the full hog and explore and make sure that they then become a miner from the exploration activity.
He sees the gap, because he sees that there are not enough bauxite mines coming through and that the demand is lifting because we know we produce aluminium on our east coast and bauxite is the ore for aluminium. We can see that those are all standing still there, they are not expanding, because what has happened is that China has cracked the code to the aluminium technology.
They are looking now for more raw bauxite rather then alumina because you can see that China’s alumina capacity has now gone from 11% in 2004 to 37% of the global capacity. So they are hungry now for bauxite and this has been picked up by our South Africans, with Adonis Pouroulis leading this new charge in West Africa to mine bauxite.
Gwala: Gold is supplying a missing piece in South Africa’s quest to regrow its industrialisation base.
Creamer: We’ve had a situation where at COP17 the Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll said that the window of opportunity is wide open for South Africans to develop fuel cells here.
Then we saw that followed up by the Department of Trade and Industry Director-General Lionel October saying that perhaps we should have a platinum type valley, a hub for platinum development, so we could include these fuel cells.
That was followed up by thought leader Brian Gilbertson saying he thinks that this is feasible and we should start working on it and he has got the Kell technology which could, its low energy and also has different way of doing things. The producer of the Kell technology Keith Liddell said yes it is more fuel-cell ready.
The way we produce the platinum is more fuel-cell ready, but there was a missing piece in the puzzle, because if you go into this hydrogen age, you do need clean hydrogen that is used by fuel cells. Unfortunately, this hydrogen contains carbon monoxide, which actually poisons the system and it can then underperform in terms of the fuel cell.
Platinum’s noble cousin, gold, can come to the rescue, because now with gold catalysis you can see that Mintek has reminded us from Randburg that you can actually remove that carbon monoxide. You convert it in to carbon dioxide, which is inert, because of this new gold catalyst.
We think of platinum as a catalyst, we don’t think of gold for catalysis. We now find that Mintek has been working very hard all these years to produce this and South Africa has actually developed a massive industrial use of gold. We started it in 2001 and this year will see another big conference.
This time in Japan and we know the old name for Japan was Zipang, which means island of gold. What is happening now is that Japan is becoming the island of nanogold, and fortunately the South Africans are right in there because we created these global conferences on industrialised use of gold. Hopefully we can help our industrialisation process by using some of these precious metals in an industrial sense.
Gwala: Eskom intends taking the power of the sun to a new level in South Africa’s scorching hot Northern Cape.
Creamer: We know that Eskom has now called for requests for information that is like a bidding process that they are engaging in right away now.
They want these bids in, they want these requests for information in by May 8, 2012. They are looking to build a 100 MW power tower in the Northern Cape in Upington, making use of the scorching hot Northern Cape sun.
We know that there is enough energy in one hour of sunlight to power the planet for a year. We are now looking to make use of this and of course, Eskom is coal heavy so it is looking to diversify some of its interests and show that it is also in renewables.
It is getting some funding backing for this proposal for a power tower using the concentrating solar power method from the International Bank of Reconstruction. It is using the two-stage process in this bidding that you come in unpriced first with technical information and then you follow with your priced version. Interestingly this will make use of mirrors.
This power tower uses mirrors or heliostats, which reflect the sunlight on to a concentrated point. Then the light is converted to heat. Manipulating the sunlight into one spot with mirrors and then that heat is converted into electricity. This has been done a lot in the world, particularly Spain at the moment and also the US.
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.