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: Fund raising is under way for the re-mining of South Africa’s rich Witwatersrand Gold Basin.
Creamer: This is great news. The Witwatersrand Gold Basin is the richest gold basin in the history of the world. What we have been doing is mining very deep and then mining the tailings dumps. What they are going to do now is go for the shallow gold in between and there is a lot of it. Previously, if there was about four grams of gold per ton, people would say this is not the sort of grade that we want.
With the whole climate of gold mining changing, the price of gold riding so high, the rand weaking and the outlook for the world going into more debt, there is a huge tailwind now for South Africans to go back into the Witwatersrand Gold Basin and mine the shallow deposits that were previously not mined. We used to always ask the question why are gold miners exploring all over the world except in South Africa? That was the wrong question. What we should’ve asked is what about all those plans you have been keeping in your bottom drawers, pull them out and let’s work on them. This is what is happening now.
We saw a great success story at Modder East where this was done with virgin reef. We didn’t realise there was so much unmined reef around until Modder East hit the black reef and had a very successful and profitable operation that was shallow, not more then 350 m down. Because of the shallowness and the fact that you don’t need so much ventilation and cooling, it becomes a very profitable operation. So, now we have a situation where Shallow Reefs Gold has announced that they are moving into these shallow reef areas and already on board with them is the former Minerals Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and also the former Exxaro chairperson Sipho Nkosi.
They are moving with full force and want to mine many millions of ounces of gold. Hopefully, they will list Shallow Reefs Gold on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but at the moment they are talking about listing in London and Toronto. Perhaps they can be persuaded to list in Johannesburg as well.
Kamwendo: Northern Cape is on the way back as a copper mining area that will use the hot sun to generate its electricity.
Creamer: This richly endowed area, the Northern Cape, is under-explored. South Africans have been big gold miners in the Wits Basin and now we need to do a lot more exploration in the Northern Cape. That is what is happening now. Already, we have been mining there in the 70’s and late 90’s, where the is a lot of copper and zinc. Coming in now is Orion Minerals. They are going to mine in the Northern Cape again, where the former Anglovaal used to mine, but in a modern way and exploring as well. They have a build-ready mine.
This is a very interesting mine. It is near the Copperton area, which is where our present Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, started in mining many years ago. This is where the Minister once lived in a hostel many years ago for nine years when he was a unionist gathering all the signatures and members to become union members. He is now broadening his smile as this is now about to get going again. It is such a rich area, because you mine copper and zinc at the same time at this mine and just mining the zinc will pay for the copper. So, you virtually get the copper for nothing. These base metals prices are set to soar.
Again, we look at the sunshine there, we look at the wind. It is so powerful, they are saying immediately 53% of the electricity will come from renewable sources, which they feel will be cheaper than Eskom in the long run. Also, they get a premium on their base metals prices, because people are looking for metals that are clean and green and if you mine using clean renewable energy you, get a premium on the price of your metals.
Kamwendo: Mining exploration was declared a priority at this week’s Junior Indaba in Johannesburg.
Creamer: It’s fantastic that the mining industry is now looking towards exploring. We know that in certain areas like the Witwatersrand Basin so much exploration has been done. We know where everything is. But, if you look in the Northern Cape and many other parts of South Africa, we don’t know what is there and we can use modern exploration methods to find out.
So, again Gwede Mantashe, the Minerals Resources Minister, came out very firmly this week at the Junior Indaba and said that exploration is a priority and that this is the way to go. He has also pledged to have shorter turnaround times for people applying for prospect licences. He has also promised full transparency so that people can see what is going on and what is available. He wants to lift the foreign investment in exploration in South African from 1% of global expenditure to 5%. He is looking for fivefold leap.
If we get that flow-through tax incentive scheme going, as they have in Canada, you can imagine how the world will come into South Africa to explore. Exploration is a risky business and it is what the powers-that-be want to encourage to take the mining industry to new heights.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.