Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: Former illegal zama-zamas have been reformed into legal mineworkers at a reopened gold mine.
Creamer: That is in KwaZulu-Natal. This is quite interesting because everybody is worried about this illegal mining activity and some people are trying to turn it legit. Where this is being done now is in KwaZulu-Natal at the old Klipwal gold mine. This was a problematic mine, there were deaths underground and then people on surface were saying they need this illegal mining because it actually sustains our economy.
What has happened is that Birrell Mining International has taken over this mine and they have put as its chairman an illustrious mining leader, Graham Briggs. He headed Harmony Gold. What he has done is he has gone down there and he has actually worked with these zama-zamas and turned them from illegal into legal and also straightened out all the safety down there. Very interestingly it is not a question of paying people per hour or monthly wages, they are paid per task.
This has been a pursuit of productivity for a long time, because they feel if you pay per task you can really lift your game, because you have people now underground at Klipwal who must deliver a ton of product to a collection point. For doing that they get a set amount of money. In this way, of course, you can motivate people and they are reporting that these former illegal mine workers are very motivated and very self disciplined. It is floating a lot of boats. This is not a big mine, they are talking about 12 000 ounces to 15 000 ounces of gold in a year as a starting point.
But, it does give an indication that in these deep, dark and dangerous situations where illegals are going in, you actually can turn them around and make it legitimate.
Kamwendo: Upcoming Mining Charter will include declaration of strategic minerals with mine-gate pricing.
Creamer: Yes, the Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane said at Highveld Steel where he appeared this week that he will be gazetting this Mining Charter next week. In it will also be a declaration of strategic designated minerals that will have a special domestic price.
This is something that could put the cat among the pigeons, but also it is related to our possible beneficiation. He is saying that there must be a domestic price. He was speaking within a steel environment at Highveld Steel, so perhaps he is talking about iron-ore as one of these designated minerals that will have a domestic price.
He is talking about these having a mine-gate price, in other words, if you get a price at the mine gate, it excludes the transport. This often has to go internationally, it gets an international price and everybody pays the going price. He is saying ‘no, he wants a mine-gate price’. He said: “you wanted this’, I presume he is talking to the steel industry, can then develop a domestic business, which is more economic. So, we will have to wait and see.
We did have at the Junior Indaba this week Dr Mathews Phosa who spoke there and he was complaining about this tinkering with the Charter. The way it is happening is like it is an academic exercise. He was urging the Minister to still have a dialogue, because the Minister has not been consulting very much and been going off on his own. We will just have to wait and see what comes up.
Kamwendo: An Italian group has invested R200-million in a railway wheel plant in Germiston.
Creamer: This is an interesting investment, because this Italian company Lucchini has been importing forged steel wheels and axles. The blanks have been coming in now and instead of just importing the final product, they now machine it in Germiston.
You’ve got this local content of above 30% on these wheels and they are looking to possibly investing more, because they see this a springboard into Africa. They are talking about a possible additional R1.8-billion investment and even looking at possibly a far more local content.
In other words actually forging the forged steel wheels and axles here, as we used to do at the old Swasap in Germiston.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.