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: South Africa’s black-controlled Impala Platinum is evaluating the building of a 200 MW solar power plant in Zimbabwe.
Creamer: It seems like it is easier to do it in Zimbabwe then it is in South Africa. It seems like it is also easier to wheel, which means you distribute it through the system than it is in South Africa.
That is a sort of a travesty at the moment, because we have a critical need through this load shedding to actually close the gap for energy. One would assume that obstacles in the way of doing it in South Africa would be removed. We see that in Zimbabwe, Impala is going ahead at Zimplats with a plan for 200 MW, that is a large number of megawatts and that will supply two of its platinum-group metal mines there and also feed energy into the general electricity grid to make a contribution to the electricity situation in Zimbabwe.
I think those who are standing in the way of generation of this renewable kind, which makes a business case, the heat and wind can give us a business case for electricity, I think they should get out of the way, because it is not helping our economy.
Kamwendo: The jointly black-white owned company Assmang is studying solar power possibilities for its mines in the hot Northern Cape.
Creamer: Yes, you know Assmang is owned jointly by Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals, which just recorded good results and also Assore, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. They operate their mines in the very hot Northern Cape. They are now looking at using that very hot sunny South African sun to generate electricity. Again, it always seems like a business case.
They can come in at a price lower. So, it is not only doing something clean and green, but it is also doing something that is economically beneficial to their operations. Of course, they have got smelters, which use a lot more electricity and that would be a different issue, but they have just confirmed that they will be looking at using the flare gas that is normally burnt to turn that into electricity as is being done by Glencore at its ferrochrome smelters in Lydenburg.
Kamwendo: Sasol has asked the government for permission to generate another 600 MW of electricity to meet all its power needs.
Creamer: Sasol which already generates 600 MW of coal power is looking to generating another 600 MW in a clean energy fashion. Again, it is in with the government at the moment. People are not getting firm replies, they are hoping requests for information. I haven’t heard of one applicant who has been told that they can go ahead on this.
I think it is urgent and it is something that we need and one would assume that Nersa and Eskom and all the people involved with the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy would have all their issues out of the way, so that South Africa can benefit from this. They are also talking of possibly using hydrogen, because we know that hydrogen can be used with fuel cells to generate electricity. The cost of that is starting to come down very rapidly. We hear from Impala Platinum at their refinery out at Springs, they are again looking at using hydrogen, which at this stage they get from Sasol.
I think that another issue to use hydrogen by getting it out of water, sometimes there are a lot of dirty water here, we have got sea water and acid-mine drainage. We can get hydrogen and turn that into green hydrogen, which means that we will have a fantastic advance on the world using fuel cells, which again will stimulate our economy, because they make use of the platinum-group metals, which we are blessed with in this country.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.