Mar 14, 2008
© Reuse this
Maggs: Let’s start with gold, you say that South Africa has been stripped of its gold crown by China, but now Australia is poised to become the first country to excel at mining on the ocean floor.
Creamer: Yes, top a Canadian Professor at the University of Toronto has tipped Australia to excel in mining gold from the sea bed. There are two companies that are actually located in Australia but listed on the Toronto exchange and also the London exchange and which have got very seafaring names, Nautilus and also Neptune.
Those companies are now setting about mining the ocean floor and particularly pursuing gold and copper. Besides having the crown for good gold production, South Africa has also worn the crown for being able to mine at depth, but they say it is far easier to put a pipe 3km down through the water than to sink a shaft through rock.
They also point to the sea-floor’s massive sulphides that they are targeting, which contain large quantities of gold and copper. They are using some South African technology, of course, because De Beers has always been an expert on mining diamonds in the sea and in fact the world’s most advanced company at doing that, but when it comes to gold, it’s another issue.
It’s now foreseen that Australia will possibly be the first to succeed and excel at getting the gold and copper treasure off the sea floor.
Maggs: Pretty much a mining theme to our discussion this morning. Vast quantities of raw chromite ore are still being allowed to leave the country’s shores in what, you say, is an unbeneficiated form. This would deny the country wealth and obviously job opportunities as well.
Creamer: That’s right. Just when we thought the hullabaloo of last year had made sure that there is legislation to prevent our chrome ore going out in raw form, we are now still selling family silver at a tenth of what we should be getting for it.
This kills jobs and revenue and it demoralises those who are spending a lot of money to beneficiate. So, the government promised quite emphatically last year that it would introduce legislation to stop this. That legislation unfortunately wasn’t put through separately, it was combined with big changes to the minerals legislation and it has now got bogged down in Parliament and thrown back to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.
During the same period of time, the Indians have managed to slap good tariff protection twice over and we have actually as South Africans done nothing and we are a far more mature industry when it comes to chromite ore and beneficiation of chrome.
Now with the power crisis, of course, a lot of the people doing it will say that it is far less energy intensive just to mine this ore and send it out rather than beneficiate it. So, it looks like we are just going to continue selling the family silver at a tenth for what we should be getting for it.
Maggs: Problems as well, or concerns with the country’s coal quality. You say it is going downhill so fast that use needs to be found urgently for this mountain of reject coal that is currently being built up.
Creamer: Eskom warned about this build up of reject coal at a recent conference. They said that we need to look at ways to try and use this. You can see it in two ways, either it’s an environmental scurge that you have got, the build up of huge quantities of reject coal, or you can say that there is energy in there and turn it to account.
Well, Eskom are looking towards the latter, where they will kill two birds with one stone and remove this mountain of discard coal that has built up over the years, about a billion tons worth and growing at about 60 000 tons a year. At the same time use technology known as fluidised bed technology in order to generate power from this.
This is something that hasn’t happened in South Africa before, where we make use of fluidised bed technology to turn this into power and electricity, but it does happen elsewhere in the world. So, it is now urgent that we do something as our coal in Mpumalanga goes downhill, the quality drops.
We are going to get more duff coal as they call it and before the Waterberg actually starts taking over and providing a better quality of coal, there could be technology put to use so that we can take this reject coal and turn it into valuable electricity.
Maggs: 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.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Updated 44 minutes ago The US Department of Defense’s technology arm Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) will start testing the use of high-performance fighter jets to deliver “cheaper, faster and easier” ways of launching small satellites into space. The Darpa-led Airborne...
Updated 57 minutes ago South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth has slowed from 4.1% in the last quarter of 2014 to 1.3% in the first quarter of this year, weighed down by a contracting manufacturing sector, Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) revealed in its quarterly GDP update...
Updated 59 minutes ago When the Eskom board suspended four executives in March, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown based her support for the move largely on what she perceived as a lack of “credible information” flowing from the managers on a range of issues, including plant...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
While economic forecasts for the African continent are most favourable, African airlines may not be able to benefit from the expected growth in the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), International Air Transport Association VP: Africa Raphael Kuuchi has warned....
The Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) will need to change substantially post 2020, says Metair Investments South African operations COO Ken Lello. “We must not make tweaks. We have to change. What we are doing is not sustainable.”
Banking group Absa’s forecast is for the rand to end the year at around R13 against the dollar, weakening further to R13.50 by 2016, says Absa sectoral analyst Jacques du Toit. He warns that possible interest rate hikes in the US may see capital being pulled from...
The Dispute Resolution Centre at the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) is now open to handle party-to-party disputes. The BCCEI represents the interests of all level four to nine Construction Industry Development Board companies.
Communications technology firm Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa head Fredrik Jejdling says the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility has been integrated into all facets of its operations, which has provided it with sustainable revenue...