It’s that time again on a Friday when SAFM presents another Update From The Coal-Face with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.
Sakina Kamwendo: Platinum received a massive boost this week when Toyota backed a fund created by South Africa’s PIC and Anglo American Platinum.
Creamer: This is a very exciting new stimulus for our platinum, and it’s all about hydrogen powered fuel cells and the platinum economy. What is now being seen by the world, is that this is the way to go and companies, like Toyota, which are massive and Sumitomo Mitsui are now pursuing the one that came earlier, Mitsubishi, which has an even bigger broad view of the world events to back the Public Investment Corporation in South Africa, and Anglo American Platinum, in South Africa, which created this fund – AP Ventures – which is the first fund of its kind, to make sure that we produce decarbonisation in this world. What can give us that is platinum and fuel cells and this is a massive promotion for us, because otherwise we are just going to sit back and see ourselves watching the rest of the world do things that we could do here. So, I’m very pleased about this development and it’s come through the Mirai Creation Fund, and the name Mirai is also very important because that is the Toyota product that is already driven by a hydrogen fuel cell, which is catalysed by platinum.
And of course, Toyota does a lot of our taxies. So, we’re hoping that they might introduce it here as a starting point.
Kamwendo: The world will descend on Cape Town next week to hear how fuel cells can inject huge new life into South Africa’s mining and manufacturing sectors.
Creamer: It’s wonderful that Nedbank has set up this fuel cell conference, because everywhere you look now, you find that this hydrogen economy is starting to emerge – even BMW announced yesterday that they will be having a hydrogen car. They’ve been fairly late in it and there have been a lot of other Japanese earlier movers, but this is just indicating that the penny is dropping that the way for us to have a huge new, decarbonised world is to go through this fuel cell route.
And of course, what they’re looking for, is also linking up to the sun and the wind. In order to get that cleaner electricity first, you need to have renewable energy, which is fed into an electroliser. The electroliser gives you the hydrogen.
The wonderful thing about this hydrogen is that it can be stored. Now, we can’t store our electricity at the moment – Eskom is unable to store. So, even at night, they just have to burn the coal and produce because that’s the way the system works.
But with this, you can store the hydrogen – if you want to store it for a day, a week, a year, a month, anything you like, you can keep it there, but it is really electricity ready to be set off. Because if you put it through a fuel cell, the platinum catalysation takes place and you get this clean electricity that the world is looking for at the moment.
Kamwendo: West Rand police this week lifted the lid off illegal zama-zama mining workshops that had been furtively disguised as residential shacks.
Creamer: People thought that these were ordinary residential dwellings, but when they noticed that there was so much water being taken off – people in the area couldn’t get water and they couldn’t get electricity because these illegal zama-zama miners were actually extracting electricity and water because they need that to process the gold ore.
All of a sudden, they just started wondering “are these just ordinary dwellings? Or is this a big workshop?”. And of course, the police lifted the lid off it this week and it turned out that this was a very big workshop that the illegal miners use.
Also, below these dwellings were huge cavities and holes – they also take the refuse bins from the bins, and they use this to store all their ore. It was quite a big discovery there but we’re hoping now that similar action can be taken by the police in Barberton, because the news just breaking this morning is that the protests there have been devastating for Barberton mines, where the passing trucks have been burnt and employees have been intimidated and they’ve had to call in the special public order division of the police, which seems to be able to sort things out.
They’re hoping that there won’t be a recurrence there because these criminals are demanding major things from the mines, which they just can’t give, and they’re destroying a lot of the infrastructure in the process.
Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. He’ll be back At The Coal-Face at the same time next Friday.