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: South Africa, under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, is resolving to forge a new post-virus economy.
Creamer: When you are in the middle of a crisis, you just see crisis, but the President has seen the crisis and has worked on the crisis and detailed how we should deal with the crisis, but he has also looked beyond the crisis. This has inspired a lot of comment. There have been a lot of virtual conferences and business people getting together on how we should go beyond to create what he says to forge a new economy in a new global reality. There are new global realities and we know that health has become so important that we can no longer pollute the air.
We have to take huge steps. Our State-owned enterprises cannot claim exemption and say that they are not going to follow the law and continue to pollute. We have got to go into this climate change with real vision, because that can also create massive opportunities and we have also got to protect our tourism industry from all this.
Kamwendo: Eskom is now sitting on so much coal that it ordering coal mining companies to hold off on coal deliveries.
Creamer: That is incredible. We saw the oil price fall through the floor and we never imagined that we will have too much coal. But, of course, the abundance of coal has grown with the lack of use of electricity, so Eskom has called on the coal suppliers and said that they have contracts with them and that they don’t want them to supply everything that is stated in the contract.
Of course, the coal miners have seen this has a semi force majeure, so they have said that they are going to have to speak quite vigorously with Eskom to make sure they find out what percentage they mustn’t bring and whether that it is still in viable conditions for them. We see that Exxaro, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said that they are going to contest it quite vigorously.
Kamwendo: South Africa’s mines are all ramping up to 50% of production capacity following the easing of the regulations.
Creamer: The moment the Minister of Minerals Resources said they can got to 50%, the mines where in there almost immediately. Of course, not all of the can get up to speed quickly. We are looking at Harmony Gold, with nine underground mines. Those underground mines take five days to restart, but the way they are going about this is exemplary. They have a medical hub at each mine and at each medical hub there is at least one qualified doctor helped by qualified nurses.
The vigorous testing is going on, they have got hospitals, beds and everything to accommodate people coming back. Their reports from all the mining houses that there is a high morale with those employees who have now been asked to come back. Obviously those are the most healthy ones to get back. If any are known to be unhealthy they are still at home, but when they come in they are apparently full of morale and they keep physical distance and obeying all the laws and they have got their masks on. Of course, one of the reasons for that is that the mines have really played the game. They have given these people full salaries, they have given them full pension, full medical, full housing allowances, where that has been applicable. This is helping us to start now with a new vision going into something bigger with a lot of people aligned to forge a better economy.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.