Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: South Africa is under consideration for the local manufacture of new high-demand battery materials.
Creamer: This is a once-in-a-hundred-years type occurrence. We last had a big change in the way we energize ourselves in the late 1800s when we moved to diesel and petrol. Now, we are moving to mobility, but it is mobility with electricity and they want it clean. All sorts of new strategic materials are involved. A lot of them we can supply in South Africa, some of them we can’t.
But, what is seen as important is putting together the factories themselves. This is a huge opportunity for South Africa. NextSource, which is listed in Canada, has linked up with Vision Blue, which we know very well, because we know Sir Mick Davis. Mick Davis used to run Eskom’s finances here. He also got involved in a lot of mining activities here. He now wants South Africa to consider itself as a base to make these battery materials and put a lot of the components together. He is mining graphite in Madagascar and he wants to bring it across to South Africa. He wants to process it here and bring down the cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He wants copper from South Africa to come through as well as manganese sulphate, which we produce here, plus the nickel sulphate. He wants to put everything together so that when the vehicle manufacturers need this battery material, there will be a battery ready for them, which will be far more risk-free for them. We make 600 000 cars here a year, 400 000 are exported, so they see South Africa as an incredibly good base and they are speaking to the government to try and persuade the government to create this battery manufacturing industry in South Africa, which will be fantastic for our economy.
Kamwendo: Tenders are due to be invited next week for a modern new system to boost South African mining exploration.
Creamer: We need the applications for all sorts of mining rights and mineral rights to be digitised. At the moment it is not digitised, so tenders are going out for a cadastre. We are very behind on this. Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and everybody is ahead of us.
We have been lagging badly. So, tenders are going to go out, they say by the latest next Friday, for a new modern cadastre system so that when people apply for a prospecting right or mining right, they will do it in a digitised fashion. We know that the Department of Minerals and Resources (DMRE) is continuing to experience chronic shortage of basic office supplies. People are talking about them not being able to print out documents because they don’t have paper and toner to do it with. This is very serious.
It is holding up a big backlog of applications. So, even though this tender is now coming out next week, it is very late. I hope that they really move on this, so that we don't lose out on this great big cycle of upward movement by the mining industry. It is a cycle you have got to get into early otherwise other people will beat you to it.
Kamwendo: South Africa’s Council for Geoscience this week went live with new data to attract investment.
Creamer: This is digitisation. This is what we want. We want a lot of digitised information to be available on the exploration front. The Council for Geoscience urged people to come to their website and see what geoscience data they can get from it.
Most of it is going to be free and they struck up a memorandum of understanding with Orion Minerals, which is listed in Australia and South Africa, and said let’s quickly start flying exploration planes over the Northern Cape’s Okiep area together and see what metals and minerals are available there. They are linked to other big prospecting people.
Let’s see what is in our ground in the Northern Cape so that we can try and turn it to account as fast as possible. At least there is some new urgency being shown on the geoscience front.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.