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: Tin mining is back with a bang as two companies rake in money for two new tin-mining projects.
Creamer: Two new tin-mining projects and both of them being led by South Africans. In fact, the people who are pushing these two mines, the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the other one in Namibia, you can see them walking around the Joburg here.
The one company has just raised money in London, that is AfriTin and it raised it on the London AIM-market. It wants to develop a very interesting project in Namibia and it will probably go commercial in Namibia next year.
There is already a pilot plant there and it is called Uis. That has historical significance for South Africans, because we as South Africans used to own that. It was owned by Iscor and they used to mine tin there. Now, AfriTin has come in listing on the London AIM and is resuscitating that.
Then, in the DRC we have Alphamin, with the Bisie mine. Again, South Africans doing the development work there, very challenging. They have raised funds in Toronto and here in South Africa with our Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The State-owned entity has in fact invested in this tin mine.
Why tin? Well we saw the price of tin rocket, because tin is no longer just for our jam tins, it is seen as a green metal. You see it coming in for lithium battery storage, in to solar power and a lot of things being introduced because of climate change, including electric vehicles. So, the price is running at about $20 000 a ton.
These two companies are going to produce many tonnes. We looking at Anthony Viljoen with AfriTin, he is part of the Viljoen family we know the family used to be at the Wits University and used to do a lot of geology work here, in fact, pronounced a lot on the gold of Johanessburg.
Now, they are looking all over the place with Bushveld Minerals and coming out of Bushveld Minerals is now AfrTtin led by Anthony Viljoen. He is hoping to get 5 000 tonnes of tin concentrate a year coming out of that Uis mine in Nambia. Then in the DRC only at the end of 2019 they are looking at 9 000 tonnes of tin a year and they are seeing big prospects for tin.
Kamwendo: Australians have once again caught South Africans napping by initiating a big new mineral exploration programme in the Northern Cape.
Creamer: Again, we have got to look at history. We saw someone capitilising on Iscor’s history in Namibia getting into the tin there. Now, we see the Australian company Orion capitilising on the history of Prieska.
We know that our fourth biggest mining company in 1968, that was Anglovaal, they discovered a lot of copper and zinc in that Prieska area. They, in fact from 1971 to 1991, they operated that mine there until the price of zinc and copper disappointed them and they closed. But, there is still a lot of infrastructure there.
The Copperton mining settlement is still around there and along comes the Sydney-listed Orion Minerals, and thank goodness they also had a secondary listing now in Johannesburg so that our people can also invest in that. They got permission to go into those old workings from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). They are firming up the prospects for another near-term project there that will be producing zinc and copper.
They see in terms of their geology module there wouldn’t only be one of these big orebodies, there will be a lot of these orebodies. That is how the geology works there. What they have done in the next nine days they will have a Danish-headquarted company flying over a large area of the Northern Cape with helicopters using outstanding new technology.
The exploration done in that area hasn’t ever used new technology and the last exploration was done there in the eighties and it didn’t concentrate below the level of 300m. This new SkyTem technology will fly over with helicopters and look deep into the earth and see exactly what is there, all the formation.
It could be yielding many more of these massive orebodies and we already see the one of them at Prieska. These Australians are saying we have gone in there in the near term for the project that has an historical background and we can turn that to account fairly quickly.
It will probably generate cash. Now we can find a lot of other satellites there when our particular exploration begins in nine days. We will have near term money coming in and then we will have long term prospects. If we put the two together, we will have a nice growth horizon. It is being led by Earol Smart, an Australian based company Orion Minerals, and he is a South African. He has brought his family back from Australia and they are looking to really turning this to a positive account.
They have got money from a British private equity company that is involved in mining here to start off with. We see that money has now been extended to May next year. We saw once the drilling programme came out this week with what is happening in Prieska their shares lifted 6% in one day.
Kamwendo: The State mining company of the Democratic Republic of Congo is hiding mining revenues from the people, the Carter Centre has found in a study.
Creamer: I am very pleased that the Carter Centre has taken the trouble to do an indepth investigation to what is happening to the funds that emerge from mining in the DRC.
We know that the DRC is the prettiest girl on the mining block. That is really a rich mining area, but it is characterised by very poor people. You have this very rich endowment that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere even though you see the mines going on. Gécamines then had a big spotlight shone on it by the Carter Centre and the outcome is not very encouraging, because three quarters of the money has disappeared.
The particular years that they have looked at from 2011 to 2014 they generated $1,1-billion, now they can’t track $750-million of that. It just falls out of the accounting arena, nobody seems to know where it is and it is often linked to elections like we saw in 2011 there was a flurry activity by the State company that is involved with mining Gécamines.
Now, we see another election on the go, the election in fact should have taken place in 2016 in DRC, but it didn't. We are now nearly at the end of 2017 and it still hasn’t taken place. Hopefully in 2018 we will have a crediable election there. Unless you have a credible election there you are not going to have these legitimate auditing systems.
I think we need to take our hats off to the Carter Centre for coming out and really going through thousands of documents to track down the disappearance of such a vast value that could really help the people of the DRC, but it is going nowhere.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.