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: Opportunities to boost our exports were outlined by a Europe-South Africa partnership this week.
Creamer: There is a potential to literally earn trillions of rands a year, literally. It is all available and I think we should really look at it as a country, because this is European and South African thoughts coming together and showing you that if you produce enough volumes of renewable energy, and we have got the sun and the wind, you can do so, so much with that.
What they are looking at is PetroSA and Saldanha Steel. They are saying with Saldanha Steel we could produce steel there, which is now known in the world as green steel, and it is in high demand, without using coal. You use the green hydrogen, which you get from renewable energy going through seawater and giving you this green hydrogen. Now, Saldanha Steel is right at the coast and it is mothballed at the moment. It is already built and ready to go, but it is mothballed and doing nothing.
So, we have got the sunshine and iron-ore, we can actually instead of just producing iron-ore, go to steel, which is far more valuable, and export that again from that coastal Saldanha Steel – but this time it will be green steel. Then they swing to PetroSA. PetroSA is State-owned, it is ailing, it doesn’t have enough gas. It needs a new life. You can do the exact same thing. You bring the green hydrogen down to Mossel By and you then produce what are known as carbon-neutral powerfuels.
Because we have got the Sasol process there at PetroSA, the Fischer Tropsch process, we can produce from that green hydrogen, clean diesel, clean synthetic fuels and clean kerosene – aviation fuel. Such clean aviation fuel is in huge demand at the moment, because the planes are the ones that are polluting the air and causing this climate change. The markets would be unbelievable and they are both right at the coast, these two operations. Literally, they could actually add another half to our GDP.
Kamwendo: Alluvial diamond miners this week came up with a far-reaching plan to revive their shrinking industry.
Creamer: We started discovering diamonds more then 100 years ago and it was alluvial diamonds that we discovered. We are now sitting with another 100 years potential of alluvial diamonds.
But, because of the way the regulatory framework is structured, this industry is shrinking. It shrunk 90% from 2004 to 2019. It used to employ 25 000 people and now it is employing 5 000 people. It operates in rural areas where we need those jobs. So, what Sadpo, which is the organisation that come together to try and revive this, is saying, is it has got four points.
One is please don’t treat us like a big mining company, because we are not. Don’t have one-size-fits-all legislation, because it is destroying us. Create a situation where we have got more of a tick-box approach, because we are much smaller operators. We can give you guarantees of the way we are going to operate, but don’t make it complicated and expensive for us to get mining licences.
Then, they are asking for three types of licences and saying smaller areas have different numbers of people employed and they are building up a case along that situation. They are also prepared to create fund so that they will channel a percentage of what they all make into a fund, so that when they need to expand they can draw on this fund. I think it is something the government needs to listen to, because it can create a lot of jobs and there is still a lot of value out there.
Kamwendo: A former Eskom executive this week launched a new company to help make the world a greener place.
Creamer: Everybody is wanting to go green at the moment. Mick Davis, when I first interviewed him, he was the CFO of Eskom. Of course, he has now become Sir Mick Davis and he is in the UK. He has launched this new investment company called Vision Blue.
The people flocked to give him funds. He raised $66-million quite easily, because what he is saying is that there is world consensus now to reduce the global carbon footprint and what he will do, he will mine actual new era metals and the first particular one is going into graphite, which is needed as the anode in your electric cars and all sorts of new ways of doing things in a cleaner, greener manner. This is just the first investment, but he is looking for a lot more and he feels that he will not only give his investors huge returns, but he will also help clean up Mother Earth.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.