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: The global mining world this week turned firmly against the building of dangerous slimes dams following the death of 170 people in Brazil.
Creamer: There has been an incredible response to this. The Financial Times of London plastered it over its pages saying that mining companies can’t continue to kill people in this way by neglecting these slimes dams. We know what slimes dams are, when we drive to Joburg we see them, but they have to be monitored and kept in check.
This was not happening with a particular design of slimes dams and iron-ore slimes dams in Brazil and two have collapsed killing hundreds of people. They now think that the death toll of 170 will be at least 300 people and huge damage to the environment and stopping all sorts of things happening now. The Brazilian government is acting very belatedly, because they had an opportunity to do this in 2016 when the first collapse took place and now they are finding themselves in a situation where they just have to ban all new slimes dams of this nature and also put a deadline on when the existing ones need to be removed.
Kamwendo: The world’s biggest coal supplier this week bowed to the science of climate change by putting the brakes on increased coal production.
Creamer: This was an incredible gesture by Glencore. It is the world’s biggest supplier of seaborne coal. Of course, it is run by South African Ivan Glasenberg, born in Johannesburg. He has bowed to the pressure of the United Nations saying that he will not develop any new coal mines, he will cap his production 150-million tonnes a year.
He has also given assurance that he will be assisting Eskom during this period, so it is not going to be a quick turn off. You can see that the days of coal are numbered and that eventually they will cease producing and the sun and the wind will start taking over. Even Glencore itself had in its presentation this week pictures of big wind farms that its developing in Australia and Canada.
Kamwendo: South Africa’s biggest platinum producer this week entered the world of new age metals by acquiring SFA Oxford of the UK.
Creamer: This is incredible by Sibanye-Stillwater. They started off as a gold miner and 2016 they went into platinum mining. A year later, they went into palladium mining in the United States. That has been a big saviour for it, because the mines that they got are heavy in rhodium and palladium and that has shown a big upsurge in the price.
But, what they are saying now is that the world is moving so fast that you have actually got to take a step forward and you have got to look at new age metals, which are coming up. So, that is why they have bought this SFA Oxford in the UK, which specialises in just looking at which metals are going to be used in technology. They have done a lot for platinum group metals (PGMs). We see PGMs as well, thank God, because South Africa needs the response also getting a take up across a lot of new intellectual property patens.
Hopefully we will have the smaller PGMs like osmium and ruthenium, and at the moment rhodium is really flying high, helping us to get through this new age metal era and move into the new world, which Sibanye of South Africa wants to make sure is right there at the forefront.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.