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On-The-Air (08/12/2023)

Martin Creamer discusses rare earth minerals, community engagement and clean, green electricity

8th December 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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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: The United States government is investing in South Africa’s rare earth minerals in the Limpopo province.

Creamer: It is very interesting that the United States development agency, the Development Finance Corporation of the United States, sees fit to put an investment into a Phalaborwa mining project that involves the recovery of rare earth minerals from a mine waste dump. Rare earth minerrals have become very important in today’s world and in this waste dump in Phalaborwa, four of the most important rare earth elements needed for use in permanent magnets are being recovered. These permanent magnets are very important in this modern age for electric vehicles and for wind turbines.

The United States is so anxious to access these rare earths that they have put an investment into this Phalaborwa project being developed by Rainbow, which is listed in London. The US funding is enabling the go-ahead of the Phalaborwa project, which has two big points in its favour. Firstly, removing the dumps very good is environmentally in that waste dumps are cleaned up, but also it is a very low cost to source rare earths, because going below surface is not required. All the material wanted is on surface.  The US development agency has recognised this and their total investment to date is over $100-million. I think maybe South Africans should realise that others are watching the occurrences of critical mineral availability very carefully, perhaps we South Africans should also spot what is available in our mineral waste dumps.

Kamwendo: The superior manner in which South Africa’s mining industry engages with communities is being recognised globally.

Creamer: It is fantastic that you listen into an annual general meeting of the mining company taking place in Perth, Western Australia, and the biggest point that the chairperson makes, to all the Australian shareholders, is that community engagement and local development has become so important in mining today and that it is South Africa that is light years ahead of the rest of the global mining industry when it comes to community engagement and local development.

They point to South Africa as having started its intensification of local and community engagement in 1994 and emphasise that local and community engagement has become hugely important today when it comes to mining investment. I think it should be recognised that South Africa has done pretty well, when it comes to community engagement and local development.

Kamwendo: South African mining this week took another big step towards generating its own clean, green electricity.

Creamer: South Africa’s mining companies are under quite a bit of pressure to make sure that the energy they use is acceptable, that it is renewable, that it is clean and green, otherwise they could get penalised. Their products could have tariffs imposed on them. So, they are moving very fast into making use of green energy. One of South Africa’s major mining companies, Sibanye-Stillwater, this week announcing that they have almost reached the point of 45% of the energy that they will be putting on will be green.

This week financial close and the start of construction was reached on a very big wind project in the Western Cape, which will give clean energy to the Sibanye-Stillwater group with the help of Eskom, because they will do what is called the wheeling of electricity to their mines. A transaction was also completed this week on a second one renewables energy project, this time one which involves our good South African sunshine. That has also been clinched in the Free State and, once again, the electricity will be wheeled involving clean sun energy into  the national electricity transmission grid for use on Sibanye-Stillwater’s South African mines. They have got platinum group metal mines, gold mines and they are also going into a lot of green metals – Sibanye-Stillwater.

Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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