Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’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: Black-controlled mining company Exxaro this week pleaded for mine land and mine water to be used for community development through agriculture.
Creamer: The mines have got vast tracks of the land and also an abundance of water. The new CEO of Exxaro Mxolisi Mgojo pleaded this week for structured use of this land to make sure that communities can develop around the issue of agriculture, food security, water security and even energy security.
Of course, the company is a coal miner to a large extent, but also into renewable energy now, so it is very much in the energy space. He is saying, why can’t better use be made of that land? He has got young people coming toyi-toyiing at the mine gates every other day asking for things that he cannot give them.
He feels that there is something there, there is this land and water and we see that it can be turned to positive account. It is done in other countries and we notice that on the West Rand, of course, Sibanye has gone ahead and just dipping its toe in the water of this agricultural development, there are already 640 people employed there in agriculture. So, they are looking long and thinking when the mining ends there that there will be an economy going through there and what is being grown there is quite impressive.
The drip irrigation is also impressive and the products going in to the commercial markets through Spar group. That is one way to do it and we know that the late Dr Robbie Robinson had this dream of doing this. He died in December, but we know that he made a lot of effort by writing about this in mining journals saying why don’t we get going with combining agriculture with mining. He had that plan to use acid mine drainage water out at the Grootvlei mine, which is now dead and buried.
He felt it could have been going even now, because he would have taken control of that water at no cost to the mines. He spoke of giving jobs to 7 000 people in the informal settlements in agriculture. DRDGold is also looking very much as that and they have got that slogan that from an area the size of a front door you can feed a family of four. A lot of people are going for growing vegetables on mine ground on the East Rand as well.
Kamwendo: Anglo American Platinum has taken another firm step towards establishing the fuel cell as a new clean force in transport and electricity generation.
Creamer: They have taken three firm steps. Now the latest is that they have tied up with a company Greyrock which is able to convert waste products, flare gas, natural gas being disposed of to liquids and turn it in to hydrogen. They can do it using platinum catalysis. It is quite an important step getting cheaper hydrogen in to the mix.
We know that fuel cells are going to rely on hydrogen. That is the gas that they will use. We also know that it has been made safe with the tie up with a German company, which actually turns it in to a non-explosive liquid, almost like a diesel. So, it will be something that comes into your petrol station and you can fill up with the hydrogen in a liquid form and that powers the fuel cell that drives your car.
This is the whole thinking that they are talking about in 2050 we will have 450-million electric cars. This fuel cell gives you the basis for the electric car in a wonderful form, because it is clean energy, emission free and noiseless. We see it in action out in Spring where the Impala Platinum, which is the rival of Anglo American Platinum, is also championing the fuel cell and getting it to power a lot of its forklift trucks, and it is also looking to fuel cells to generate electricity for the refinery there.
It has got a lot of purposes with the Japanese very keen on it. We see also in California that there is a lot of these hydrogen stations using that hydrogen to drive vehicles.
Kamwendo: The South African mining industry is crying out for disruptive digital change, speakers said at this week’s huge Electra Mining Show in Johannesburg.
Creamer: This was interesting that the South African Institute of Mining Metallurgy had a conference at the big Electra Mining Show. You don't always have these conferences there.
They spoke of the need for disruptive digital change in the mining sector. We know that the automotive industry is way ahead on the digital front. They are saying that mining can do this. Connectivity everywhere, instead of silos have systems. Collaborate and don't suffer in silence. This is the big new thrust now.
Disrupt the industry by making sure that it becomes fully digitised from top to bottom, from the orebodies to the boardroom, from the suppliers through to the customers.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.