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: Sibanye made a vigorous call yesterday for government, labour and business to, once and for all, put a rapid end to the rising number of fatalities in South Africa's mines.
Creamer: Death in South African mines is a horror story. It has been going on for a long time. We can go back to 1995 with Judge Leon when he said we have already got 65 000 deaths and a million people injured, let’s do something about this. They set targets and, of course, they have brought it down.
It is nothing like we had in 1960, Coalbrook when 437 died and at Kinross 177 died. We don’t have those numbers, but we have hit a plateau. That was the remark made yesterday by Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman. He said we have got to break through this plateau, because we can not keep reporting these deaths. We see that it is often a situation where the fatalities hit the headlines, because of just the different angle of rock fall.
As he was saying, if the rock falls on their shoulder and they are injured it doesn’t make headlines. If it falls on their head it makes the headlines. It is such a marginal issue, it can create a very big issues. He is saying that the rules are there and most of the investigations that are done that the rules are broken.
He is saying if we have got an attitude where people want to take risk like that, can we continue to mine? How many jobs will be lost if we don’t? He is wanting a summit and once and for all get the unions behind you and get the government behind you, which hasn’t been the case.
Get business in there to say we are going to do away with this, because it really doesn’t make mining worthwhile when you see the fatalities.
Kamwendo: Of course just listening to the some of the message coming through, this positive sentiment that is permeating at the moment in South Africa Martin, this reaffirmed at the highest levels this week as a reborn investment destination.
Creamer: It is incredible. When journalists are listening in to London calls, now these are global calls, you have got journalists coming in from all over the world and top companies like Glencore responding to all the enquiries. The questions coming up are: give us a comment on South Africa? How do you see South Africa? It is just glowing at the moment.
The momentum is so strong and the awareness level of Cyril Ramaphosa is glorious. What is happening is quite interesting, because it is a win-lose as all the big business are saying they are very happy to see Cyril Ramaphosa there. They really believe he is going to do a good job, but brother is it hurting us at the moment, because the rand is strengthening.
With that strengthening rand comes a fantastic effort that you have to make to keep things going. It is a double situation, but they are pleased and smiling, because they know in the end their share value will also lift. That is South African discount that we have been having at equity level has been hurting us.
We know that when it comes to raising cash you have got to have a good equity position. You can’t expect to raise money on a Stock Exchange if your shares are down. Often South African companies suffer from that discount and that means they can’t raise the same amount of money.
That means you can’t have the same investment and jobs. We are looking to getting rid of this inequality. Everybody in business, they are with that, they want inclusive growth. They want to see that inequality level come closer to closing. Poverty, of course, is a harder thing, but still you can make a big dent into that.
The big prospect is more jobs with that growth, especially getting youth into jobs. The lens is on youth, because our numbers are so colossal when it comes to youth unemployment it is just outrageous.
Kamwendo: Platinum companies are surprising on the upside with cash-gushing financial results in spite of the low platinum price.
Creamer: We have been looking at that platinum price thinking how are these guys going to make any money. We have been worried about them and suddenly you get a company like Anglo American Platinum reporting and you see they got cash gushing. It is just sheer efficiency.
Their operation at Mogalakwena is just a marvel. It gushed R4-billion unfetted cash out of there in the year and you can see that they are spending it well. They are spending it on modernisation and marketing. We need marketing in that area, particularly the platinum area.
We also see the deep-level mines, in Rustenburg, Sibanye saying we will do something in x number of months, but they do it much quicker and saving R1-billion. We have had a wonderful response there from the mining companies to the weak prices.
Kamwendo: Good news story to end it off on Richards Bay Coal Terminal, they have just come through to say that the terminal won the Port of the Year in Dubai last night.
Creamer: Yes, there were fantastic celebrations of the South Africans again. This is good South African momentum. We have infrastructure that is incredible here. It is the Richards Bay port and the Richards Bay Coal Terminal. Both of them won top awards globally last night in Dubai.
That is a great credit to our infrastructure here. We often wonder how efficient is the RBCT and that port. When we speak to them as journalists we say: what are you benchmarking yourself against? Where is the global benchmark? Now, the wonderful news from Dubai is that we have become the global benchmark, so congratulations to the Port of Richards Bay and also the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.