Every Friday, 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: Good news for mining is that the Department of Mineral Resources is working on a long-term Vision 2030 for the mining industry that can do so much for the South African economy going forward.
Creamer: What a breath of fresh air. I mean, we have not looked long for so long. All there has been is short term tick tacks and all we have heard is Charter III and all unilateral action, no consensus. All of a sudden now the new leadership there is saying with mining you have got to look long, it is a long-term business. So, they are developing a 2030 Vision at last and even that is not so long for mining.
You can have a longer vision then that, but it is a good start. Behind all these thing there is also short term problems of course and the Minister Gwede Mantashe is very well aware of that. Relationships have to be healed between business, communities and labour, so that also needs to take place. At least you have this idea of where you going with mining which we haven’t had before.
We have had so many Ministers and they change all the directions. You have a lot more ministers than you have proper strategy. If you have this long-term vision now and there is a big Vision 2030 event coming up in mid-year, which I am sure they can include this in, you will have a much better potential performance for mining. Of course, they have to come to certain basic agreements, particular about the DMR, it has to be more transparent. That has to be done very quickly. It is no good all the rest of the world knowing what is happening in Mozambique it is just so opaque you can’t find out what is happening, you don’t know what is available.
That system that they have got has to be opened up, has to be transparent and modern. Then, of course, they have to work on incentivising, because we see the other jurisdictions incentivise mining in very clever ways that involves a lot of the public. The flow-through scheme in Canada is brilliant, because the ordinary individuals get involved in exploration, the risk in exploration and they are prepared to bet on it. So, they buy shares that are listed in the companies, they might be a taxi driver, but he is prepared to bet some money on that. He gets a special tax break, so even if there is no reward, he is going to get a tax break. It makes it interesting for people to invest.
Then they have to provide geological information. Our Council for Geoscience must do more, it must turn inward and make sure that we know what is going on and what opportunities are there for particularly juniors. There has to be genuine black ownership, it can’t be this part-time situation. The people who come in must be owners, it makes such a difference.
Kamwendo: New Minerals Minister Gwede Mantashe is being confronted by a worsening crisis in platinum mining which will have to be addressed with great wisdom.
Creamer: Yes, I think that there is some denial. Is there a crisis in platinum? We noted at the platinum breakfast this week Mantashe was saying why are we saying this industry is dying? But, the reality of it is that at the deep mines with the price of platinum now, they are not going to survive.
The only incentive of this $920 an ounce for platinum plus the strong rand is incentive to close the mines and put them on care and maintenance, especially if they are deep. We call them deep, dark and dangerous, so there is all that to it. The opencast mines are doing very well, they are mechanised and have a different approach to things and you can see that continuing.
Genuinely, I think South Africans have got to look in the mirror and say we have got a platinum crisis and we have got a lot of people tied up there. What are we going to do? We saw when there was a big crisis in chrome they actually stopped producing, so that adds to the potential for higher price and then they sent everybody to school.
They don’t have the same numbers, there are larger numbers in platinum, but there can be some way of actually getting people educated in their craft in that period so that when they come back you get the higher productivity and you also get the higher price. It should be logical that if you cut back on your production, the price should lift. We noticed that it doesn’t always related to that, so there are some mysteries in platinum, but this is the best air cleaner in the world. It has to be acknowledged and promoted. It comes without any environmental baggage. It can clean the air of China. We must really start pushing that strongly on the marketing front.
Kamwendo: The Canadian company building the brand new platinum mine in Limpopo has appointed former President Kgalema Motlanthe to its board.
Creamer: I think this is a coup for Ivanhoe. They have got this fantastic new platinum project in Limpopo and it is a project with a difference. This is modernisation in action, mechanisation in action, close liaison with the community in action, close liasison with the market in action. It is a very interesting mine. This is Robert Friedland leading this and he has got Ivanhoe listed in Canada.
I think it's quite a coup that he has attracted to his board as a non-executive director the former President Kgalema Motlanthe who he describes as one of the wise men of Africa. We do know that Kgalema is a person, who puts South Africa’s interests first. We have seen him do it and seen him step back for other people. He doesn't have an ego and he wants to promote South Africa. I think he has got a very good board member there in the former President Kgalema Motlanthe. Also, I think he is setting up a model project there.
You see, some of the big shareholders are the Japanese who value platinum so much that they want to be shareholders so that can have an offtake of that platinum. They know how well it can be used in Japan to make sure that there is no environmental pollution, that there is environmental protection and that it is a metal of this modern world that really needs to be exploited to the full. Marketing is a big thing, because platinum is not consumed so you have to make sure that you market it well.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.