On-The-Air (10/09/2021)

10th September 2021 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (10/09/2021)

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: With the prices of green metals rising, consideration is being given to the reopening of closed mines.

Creamer: There are so many important metals and minerals needed for climate change now that South Africa is relooking at some of the mines that have closed. One of the mines that have closed is Nkomati Nickel.

That just closed and went onto care and maintenance in February, earlier this year. Now they are saying that it has got tremendous underground potential. So, it won’t be an opencast mine, but they are now looking to reopen it as an underground mine. The benefit of that is that we will be able to get the nickel price into our pockets here in South Africa, which is very good at the moment.

On top of that there are also by-product credits in the form of copper and cobalt at Nkomati mine. So, African Rainbow Minerals now is looking at working with its partner to try and reopen that mine and try and get it out of care and maintenance and go underground, which will be great news for South Africa.

Kamwendo: Energy intensive industries that collapsed under high Eskom electricity tariffs are being re-evaluated.

Creamer: Again, you know there are so many smelters that have closed in South Africa, because the Eskom price went up by 500% over a decade. So, many of these industries which were beneficiation industries, which add value to our ore, which we have been saying we must do for so many years, have had to close, because the Eskom price has prohibited that.

One of those that had to close was the Assmang African Rainbow Minerals ferromanganese plant. That was adding value to manganese ore. Instead of sending out the manganese ore in its raw from they were taking that and developing it and giving it a five times higher price as ferromanganese. But because of the Eskom high price, they had to stop doing that and they started doing it with our ore in Malaysia, of all places.

Now, with the whole regime changing and people thinking of using the sun and the wind and generating their own electricity and not relying on Eskom totally, they are now looking at reintegrating this and considering bringing back this idea of ferromanganese production in South Africa. This would be wonderful, because then we export at a  much higher value.

Kamwendo: Sasol is taking strong new strides towards producing the green products that the world is demanding.

Creamer: We are lucky here to have had Sasol always producing grey hydrogen for so many years. Now, they can see that with, the help from the sun and the wind, they can turn that into a different product, a clean and green product that will be acceptable to today’s world. At the moment coal is burnt and you get the grey hydrogen which produces the fuels and the chemicals.

The world does not want that anymore. The big benefit is that South Africa has got this history, this long period that they have been doing this. They have got the infrastructure with Sasol so that they can convert faster than anyone else in the world at the moment, by turning all Sasol’s products into green products, which now demand bigger prices and premium prices on the world markets.

As it is we are in a better position than our competitors elsewhere in the world. We have got first mover advantage. But as they were saying this week, that can only be an advantage if you move first and in this case I think we not only got to move first, but we have got to move fast.

Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.