Apr 22, 2011
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De Gouveia: An avalanche of global interest has come down on South Africa’s nifty new electronic mining register. Tell us a bit about this.
Creamer: We have been waiting for this register for a long time. It is a cadastre, you know we have got these electronic registers in Mozambique already and in Namibia. We have been doing it manually, which has led to a lot of problems. We have seen duplication, court cases, all the rest of it, because of what has been happening. Now we have got a foolproof system.
People can be sitting in New York and they can see on our screen exactly where the open areas are, the opportunities are and they can actually register online and then apply online. They can see their application status going through until it is granted and then issued.
So, there can be no duplications now. It has got 270 layers, so this is a real Royals Royce. Where all the environmentally sensitive areas are, it highlights that, because other departments of the government are feeding in information to this.
It is a veritable miracle for South Africa and we just hope it works well, because the demand has been so high in the first three hours, there were 1 000 registrations. So, I haven’t actually been able to get on.
People are still saying the jury is out, but there is a helpline number and you can go through and they’ll send you along the way in an orderly manner.
De Gouveia: In what sense would this make a tangible difference to mining sector?
Creamer: Such a big difference. We have been falling behind in South Africa with our investment. While the last boom was going on in the world and our competitive mining countries of Chile, South America, Canada, Australia and all the rest were growing like Topsy, we grew negatively. We went backwards because of the huge overload.
Also, we haven’t been exploring here, as we say, this is an exploited country and not an explored country. This will enable exploration to take place and that is where the wealth can be created and the jobs created.
De Gouveia: Well speaking of mining, South Africa’s Harmony Gold intends building a R20-bn mine in Papua New Guinea. That is quite interesting.
Creamer: A massive mine coming up there, it is gold and copper. They are talking about this endowment in Papua New Guinea as mouth-watering and Harmony Gold which have a lot of depleted mines now in South Africa, but also a suite of new assets coming through, is hoping, with an Australian partner, to create the first production by 2016.
So they are giving themselves five years and a massive investment, but they are saying that the capital raising won’t be a problem because the copper alone that they will get out of this, and they will never sell their gold forward, because they are a gold mining company, but they will sell their copper forward. On the copper that is available there they could easily raise their own billion dollars.
This would fund their contribution, which is 50 % with their Australian partner Newcrest. It is not capital sensitive which is remarkable for a mine this big.
De Gouveia: Any chance that it would create jobs for local miners.
Creamer: You know, what we do because of the South African connection there are always services that come forward from South Africa, but the operation is also managed by the Australians, so there has to be some sort of comprise there. There is going to be input in terms of services from South Africa.
De Gouveia: Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu is set to be rooting out law-breaking miners, and reoffering their resources to others in Government Gazette notices. What is this all about.
Creamer: Again, this whole manual system that we had in South Africa of right applications caused huge delays and also we got the wrong type of people in with this first-come-first-served basis.
I think they are still going to keep the first-come-first-served basis but when they reoffer these errant rights, they are going to possibly have a bidding process, even the word auction is starting to pop up.
So, get the rights which are very valuable in this world which needs metals and minerals so desperately, get the rights to more deserving people. She has been doing secret raids now into Mpumalanga.
Mpumalanga is the area where they haven’t even lifted the moratorium there because there seems to be a lot of problems there and I know this week they met at a secret rendezvous and they struck and made sure that individuals who are law breakers actually know that there licences are being revoked. They found 400 different law-breaking incidents with regard to permits.
People either hoarding, speculating, not even responding, sometimes being physically violent to people who are asking them questions. So, they have decided to take a firm hand.
Also 700 breaches of environmental legislation. In terms of the new outlook, they want to clean up this prospecting-right business, which has not yielded good results for South Africa and they want to get the law breakers out and more deserving people in, so that we can start exploring in a proper way.
De Gouveia: I would imagine its not the last of the raids that we will see.
Creamer: It is very early still. These were very early raids and they want to involve the media. You have got to meet at secret rendezvous very early in the morning and only a few people know which mines are going to be approached, or which errant right holders are going to be approached, and they don’t want this to leak out. So you have got to be patient from a media point of view and play the game.
De Gouveia: Certainly those type of stories that get the adrenalin going. 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.
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