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Sep 28, 2007

On-The-Air (28/09/2007)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Jeremy Maggs speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Maggs: First up, the world’s quietest and most powerful current revolution is what you term the ‘Chinafication’ of Africa. The Africa DownUnder conference has been told this in Perth, Australia, and you have just been there.

Creamer: That’s right and it is quite appropriate that our Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is in China at the moment and she has just encouraged the Chinese to secure their own sales and supply into Africa by promoting industrialisation and value-add in Africa. One of the big issues coming up in the mining world – and it came up at the Africa DownUnder conference in Australia – is the movement of China into Africa, in what is called ‘Chinafication of Africa’ and it centres largely on oil. We see oil activities in Angola, Nigeria and Sudan particularly and also around iron ore in Guinea; then closer to home, in Zambia, around copper. The strategy behind it is for China to cease being a price taker as far as metals and minerals are concerned and also to become a price maker. It will be very important for African countries to be involved with this whole strategy of price making, because we wouldn’t like to suffer from lower prices. There are something like 800 State-owned Chinese enterprises now active in Africa across all the countries. This is the spear-heading mechanism being used, the State-owned enterprise. There are many good words spoken about the infrastructure that China is now offering Africa. Several power stations are being built, another one will be built in Ghana, roads, rail have been built so there reciprocity, but it does need a very good strategic plan, because there are 52 countries in Africa and, if each is going to go off in a different direction, that is going to be to the advantage of China.

Maggs: Now maybe just my over active imagination, I see a movie script here. You are going to tell us something about De Beers’ zeppelin airship.

Creamer: Yes, we have been talking about quiet and powerful revolutionary things there is also quiet and powerful revolutionary tool that will be flying over South Africa. That is De Beers’ zeppelin airship, nice low and slow and stable, because it will be searching for diamonds. There are two very good messages in this decision by De Beers to want to search for diamonds in South Africa using the zeppelin. The one is that they believe there are still diamonds to be found and often we are told South Africa is already depleted as far as diamonds are concerned, but I think its more that South Africa has been exploited rather than explored, and this is confirmed now in De Beers wanting to explore more, with modern technology. The other is that this will be an environmentally friendly non-intrusive way of making sure that where you do drill, you actually have a good chance of discovering a kimberlite. We see that there was red tape involved in stopping the zeppelin from coming to South Africa earlier, it has been used in Botswana and, in fact, it suffered a mishap just recently with a severe wind so it will have to be repaired. The idea is now for De Beers to get a reconnaissance licence from the government rather than a prospecting licence so it can fly this airship over South Africa in search of diamonds.

Maggs: Bit of a stretch, but we always try and look for a theme here. The zeppelin will be flying looking for air currents. You have also got information for us on two new wind farms in South Africa, one here and another across our border.

Creamer: Yes, in Namibia. There is wind farm activity and we know that wind energy is still expensive and that there are a lot of capital barriers that have to be overcome, but already they are moving into this because countries are committed to renewable energy and environmental friendly energy and wind is one way of doing this. We see Eskom planning 100 MW wind energy farm in South Africa on our West Coast and also, across the border in Namibia, we now see a private Belgian company Electrowinds planning to put up a wind energy plant of similar magnitude, 100 MW. That follows and earlier application which has also gained approval in Namibia by a Dutch firm Aeolus, which is going to put even more generation into Oranjemund and Luderitz. It is planning a generation capacity of 300 MW and that should start in October 2008. As I say, some of the cost hurdles still have to be overcome and we see that our own Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, at the energy summit, announced that she now has a subsidy and finance office that is being opened for renewable energy and this will be around the whole capital side of renewable energy and trying to make it more palatable.

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
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