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Aug 29, 2008

On-The-Air (29/08/2008)

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29 August 2008
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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Tsepiso Makwetla speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Makwetla: South Africa is burning power station coal at a rate faster than it is producing it, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Keaton Energy is warning, I believe.

Creamer: Yes, South Africa is consuming coal at a rate greater then it is producing it, which means that we are going to head for a deficit. They say that the deficit will be most acute in 2017, but in the meantime they are making use of discard coal to cover that gap.

We see that coal continues to be the investment flavour of the month. With that sort of opportunity, obviously companies like Keaton who have just listed on the stock exchange, are coming through with a lot of coal projects of a smaller size.

We might look further and say why are all these new entrants coming into coal, because we are going to have nuclear down the line. You will see that there is a gap between now and when the nuclear can click in over about 20 years. In the meantime, the consumption of coal will have doubled by the time those nuclear power stations come in.

At the same time, although it is unpopular to declare a new coal-fired power station anywhere in the world, even in Europe they are having to say that they are going to have more coal-fired power stations to close this gap. That is creating new demand for South Africans, who also export.

We note that we don’t have such a buoyant export market at the moment. There is a gap there also that needs to be filled. So, all-in-all, it means that there is a great atmosphere and environment for investment in coal.

Makwetla: Global leader De Beers is preparing to open up its treasure chest of successful diamond technology to the world for the first time in its 100-year history. That should be quite exciting.

Creamer: For 120-years, De Beers has had its treasure chest of technology closed and kept it only for itself. Now, for the first time, it will open this treasure chest and, of course, for 60-years it has had DebTech working flat-out on this technology on how to actually process diamonds.

Nobody has actually been able to share this and what they are going to use is an ideal set-up because we are having this massive big show in Johannesburg, the Electra Mining show, and because of this tremendous mining boom at the moment, there is such pressure for space at that show.

Every last square metre of the 34 000 m2 has already been taken up. There are 700 exhibitors and they are expecting a record number of 35 000 people. It is there that De Beers will open this treasure chest to the world to show them what technology is available.

The key technologies are the X-ray diamond sorting and the laser diamond sorting. It is interesting to see that some of that technology has already migrated into other fields, particularly the x-ray side has gone into the medical profession.

We see that some of the technology, like the dense-medium controllers and crushing rolls, might also go for nondiamond use and iron-ore is one of the contenders.

Makwetla: Air-monitoring stations are being set up in Mpumalanga to clean up South Africa’s air-polluted Highveld hot-spot.

Creamer: The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has set-up a situation where the Highveld area has been declared a priority area. Now, we know the Highveld is intensely industrial, that is where all our coal-fired power stations are concentrated, also Sasol is concentrated, so the air above the Highveld has always been a problem.

The Highveld is a big area, it stretches from the Eastern Gauteng, round about Edenvale, for 30 000 km2 going all the way to Middelburg into Mpumalanga. The Danish government has come to the party with helping to finance these air-monitoring stations, they cost about R1-million apiece.

The Danes have already paid for the first five, which have gone up in Middelburg, Hendriena, Witbank and places like that. Now, they are going to partially fund another four, which will also be in that Mpumlanga area. Later, some of them could be as close as Edenvale, Boksburg and Benoni.

The beauty of these air-monitoring stations is that you not only find out what is going in to the air, so you will see the SOX and NOX which is a normal thing, which is the sulphur dioxide and the nitrogen dioxide, as well as carbon monoxide, benzene and lead. But, you will also be able to finger who has put them in the air, so you will know which company has done this.

Then, the strategy of the Department of Environmental Affairs will be to go out and sit with these companies and decide on a timeframe for the eradication of this air-pollution. They will agree a timeframe and that will all be cordial until the timeframe is broken.

If they do not then stop polluting within the agreed period, that is when the sting could be in the tail as the Green Scorpions come in and people can be heavily fined and some of the CEOs could even end up in jail.

The Highveld is not the only priority area, we see Durban South as another priority area from an air-pollution point of view, as well as the Vaal area, and the next one is going to be Milnerton in the Cape.

Makwetla: 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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