Every Friday, SAfm’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: The headlong dash of global mining companies into the electric vehicle revolution will have medium-term benefit for South African mining.
Creamer: The emphasis is on medium-term, because the electric vehicle (EV) in a battery electric vehicle form has got the short-term head start. South Africa is moving into the medium-term with the established fuel cell EV and that is where we jump up with join, because it is platinum. We are also fighting for a space in the short-term, because the battery electric vehicle has a material called cobalt, but they don’t like the source of that, so they are allowing a race to be developed which could result in manganese coming in there in a strong form.
So, that will be a big plus for South Africa. We see that a Johannesburg-listed company Pallinghurst this week jumped into both camps. It has moved into graphite in Canada, which will be for the short-term benefit of the battery electric vehicle, but it is still hanging on to its platinum in South Africa and it has earmarked $1-bn for battery and fuel cell materials.
Kamwendo: Gold bosses this week drew the line on the advance of illegal mining on Gauteng’s West Rand.
Creamer: This is sad news, because fighting this battle against illegal mining is tough. I have been following it for many years, I started in 2009 where it reared a head in Mpumalanga with Pan African. We found how difficult this is to deal with and how fearful the police are, because they feel that the zama-zamas, as they are known, are not easy meat to tackle and that you can come short.
Particularly I remember down in Mpumalanga the moment these people went into the mine, the police would not go into the mine. So they had to have private sector security start coming around, which is very expensive. We now see this intensifying, although Susan Shabangu was the new minister at that stage she said all stakeholders must get into this and stop the illegal mining. It is not as easy as it seems and I think a new strategy is needed. I believe that a specialist crack police force that is really a well-trained unit that knows what to do can move from place-to-place where it is needed. We saw that on the West Rand it started rearing its head again.
People fear there that there is a build-up of zama-zamas and that it could come down to haunt the area at any time. We find that police look on, because they don’t quite know what to do with these people. I think they have to be clearly told that this is the strategy, this is the unit you have, this is the way you have got to tackle it, otherwise we might not be able to overcome what could be a terrible scurge.
Kamwendo: New gold mining company Blyvoor Gold has turned all its employees into shareholders with sky-high pay potential.
Creamer: This is fantastic, because you see the potential if you can keep the illegal miners out and bring in the legal miners, you can have a structure that is so important for the economy of South Africa. Now, we have heard now from top sources that our gold mining industry is in decline, but if you look around at some of the assets that are available they can turn into very positive instruments for the South African economy. One of these is Blyvoor Gold out in that Carletonville area.
They are not only coming in with very realistic attitude towards possible zama-zama attack, because they protecting themselves in a very innovative way. Also, coming in is the way they are going to mine and that is so important. The closeness that they have got to the community where every employee is a shareholder and gets a pay packet that could be sky-high if productivity is measured in the way they think it will be. There is opportunity for us to really do on the formal side, we can resurrect our gold, if we go about it particularly the way they are doing it at the Blyvoor Gold.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.