Every Friday, SAfm’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: President Ramaphosa’s SONA commitment to look into the development of a hydrogen economy is of great significance.
Creamer: It was only seven words, he said: “Explore the potential of the hydrogen economy,” but it has massive implications. We know all the enlightened countries of the world now are studying this in-depth. China is beginning to lead on this, Japan has always been there in quite a big way. Germany is also there and California is the part of America where this is developed most.
We need to do it here, because we know that hydrogen and platinum are joined at the hip. We have a particular advantage because we have the most platinum on earth and hydrogen is the most abundant gas on earth. If we combine this with renewable energy, we know that the cars that are driven by hydrogen that is created from renewable energy do not emit a single bit of carbon. This is what the world is looking for at the moment. We also know that some of the car manufacturers that supply our taxis here are very deeply involved in the hydrogen economy. A lot of them have bet on this coming through, they also supply our taxis here.
There is a potential for taxis to move early, because they have got particular routes and that suits the hydrogen economy because you can refill at fixed points, which would mean that we wouldn’t be dependant any longer on petroleum for those vehicles. So, the price of petroleum going up and down and often up, would not keep pushing those prices high and we can actually come down the cost curve with the hydrogen economy particularly starting with our taxis.
Kamwendo: Transnet’s latest plans to rail manganese to the ports is an important boost for South Africa’s export potential.
Creamer: This is wonderful, because the railing of iron-ore to the port has always been well organised, there are dedicated lines. The railing of coal to the port has always been well organised, because there are dedicated lines. But, the railing of manganese to the ports has never been organised, because there is no fixed line.
Finally, investment is coming in by Transnet and we see that the company United Manganese of the Kalahari (UMK), and this is a very interesting platinum mining company, because UMK is controlled by South African black investors, but it is funded to a large extent by the other big shareholder, which is Renova of Russia.
So, you have this Russian backed mining company now signing a R8,5-billion deal with Transnet for the transport of the manganese to the port in a very organised and orderly way with both companies committing to investment, but particularly Transnet has got a plan now to really put money into this, so that South Africa can benefit. We see that there has been a trebling of the export of manganese in the last few years.
Kamwendo: South Africa should follow Australia’s example of allowing mining companies to generate their own solar power.
Creamer: The irony of what we are seeing in Australia is that the South African mining companies in Australia, like Gold Fields, are being allowed to put in renewable energy to come off grid and create microgrids.
Not only that, but the Western Australian government have two mines now, that is Gold Fields of South Africa, listed in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, they have two mines now backing a 12% subsidy for renewable energy. They combine the sun and the wind and gas and they are doing this in a big way, whereas our mines are pleading with authorities to be allowed to have even bigger installations then this, but red tape is still precluding it.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.