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: China’s ban on Australian coal has become South Africa’s gain. We’re now exporting coal to China.
Creamer: This is unprecedented. We never used to export coal to China in any huge quantities. It last happened in about 2014. Now we are starting to build that up again, because the Chinese are refusing to accept coal from Australia, which last year sold China 34-million tons of thermal coal.
So, there is a huge scope for South Africa to help to fill that supply gap. South Africa is not going to get all of this. I think Indonesia and Russia are already ahead of us. So far we have sent out about 600 000 tons to 700 000 tons of coal to China, which is quite unprecedented and which is a good bullish sign for our coal early in this new year.
Kamwendo: Massive demand also building up globally for South Africa’s wonderful platinum group metals.
Creamer: Yes, the world just cannot get enough of our platinum group metals at the moment, because the world is changing the way it gets its energy. It wants to use hydrogen and it is already using it in considerable quantities. A lot of the countries have taken decisions to convert to hydrogen and when you generate green hydrogen from an electrolyser, you need platinum and iridium.
When you actually put that into a fuel cell and turn the hydrogen into electricity to drive your vehicle, ship, bus or heavy truck, you then need platinum again. So, platinum is in demand and there is a concern that we won’t have enough of it, which is always a worry, because when the prices rise too high, scientists look for something else.
People are now saying that we need to expand our platinum group metal mines here, because they expect the platinum price to go through the roof, just as the rhodium price and the palladium price have done.
Kamwendo: The construction of a major new ‘green’ platinum mine has begun in the North West province, which is good news.
Creamer: This is very good news, particularly at this time. We are talking about Sedibelo and their Pilanesburg mine in the North West. They are going ahead with a major expansion of this. This means potentially about 60-million more ounces of platinum group metals over the years. That is the capacity that this new project, the Triple Crown, has got.
This is just what the world is looking for at the moment. But, in addition to that, this project is going to be the first ‘green’ platinum mine, because instead of smelting the ore like we have been doing for 100 years and using an enormous amount of electricity to do so – as well as polluting the air and creating huge carbon footprints at the same time – this will be decarbonised hydrometallurgy and it will be done in a way where there is also refining onsite.
This means a lot more high level staff will be needed from the communities around the mine. It is going to be linked to a special economic zone so that there can be exporting of higher value products from the Sedibelo’s Pilanesburg mine, in the North West.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.