On-The-Air (17/05/2024)

17th May 2024 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (17/05/2024)

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: Nedbank confirmed this week that green energy is presenting South Africa with a massive opportunity to reindustrialise.

Creamer: Yes, a great meeting was held at Nedbank, and it was well represented by government and the private sector.

The point that Nedbank made the is that to meet all our decarbonisation obligations, we're going to have enough green electrons.

I'm talking about what we get from the sun and the wind, we're going to have surplus of those, and there's a huge opportunity to then create green molecules as well.

When we say green molecules, we mean green hydrogen, and they're saying many people think, mistakenly, that there is only one application for green molecules and that is a fuel application, but in reality, its applications are so broad, with about 40 other applications.

Nedbank believe that we can reindustrialise South Africa using the green energy opportunity. A bank like Nedbank is working on how that's going to be funded.

The State was represented, they made huge commitments to support the green energy transition, and they realised that this could create a lot of growth and a lot of jobs. That's why they are deeply committed, and they expressed that commitment at the Nedbank event repeatedly.

So hopefully, we won't just have electric cars because as we're saying, you can't just have an electric car and call it green.

The steel that goes into that car must be green as well, and the only way you can make that a green steel is to use the green molecules, that is green hydrogen.

Kamwendo: South Africa is about to beat the whole world in the race to provide battery manganese for electric cars.

Creamer: This is a great credit to Mpumalanga, Mbombela.

Few would imagine that sort of global leadership coming out of Mbombela, but the company involved, Manganese Metal Co, is an industrial jewel. This company takes waste manganese, it takes the fines, that it gets from the Northern Cape, and turns them into the purest manganese in a world.

It is purer than the manganese metal produced by the only other supplier, China. The Mbombela company is the only producer of manganese metal outside of China, and its metal is purer than that made by China.

Its metal is 99.9% pure, and that beats China.

Virtually all this pure manganese metal is exported. It goes into Japan, and it goes into Europe, and it goes into America, where demand is building up for manganese to also be used in batteries for electric vehicles and Manganese Metal Co is setting out to meet that demand.

As an immediate response and to get things going very, very fast, and to beat everyone else in the world, in fact, the Mpumalanga company is going to dissolve some of its very pure manganese metal, turn it into the manganese sulphate that is wanted, crystallise it, and get it to the market. The company expects to be able to do this in 18 months’ time.

But there's also bigger project on the way there as well and this is to go beyond only producing pure manganese metal in the way they do now, from waste manganese. Instead, they're going to use manganese ore to have battery high purity manganese sulphate done in a much bigger way, which could mean that they grow outstandingly and hopefully we'll be able to keep all this production in South Africa, which would be a fantastic feat because, they could ultimately find this more economic do externally, to be closer to their global markets.

Kamwendo: An iron-ore mining business – that’s all the once-huge Anglo-American plans to continue to own South Africa.

Creamer: I still think even though it's really shrinking in South Africa, this whole situation of Anglo American reshaping and simplifying is going to be good for South Africa.

Okay, you know, South America is going to do very well, Peru's going to do very well, because that's where they're concentrating on the copper side of the business, and England is going to do very well, because that's where Anglo wants to produce crop nutrients.

But, with the focus on iron-ore here in South Africa, I think we could do so much more out of that Northern Cape. The logistics could be so much better, and also in freeing up South Africa’s Anglo American Platinum, by demerging this platinum group metals mining and marketing business, Anglo will create a much better opportunity for us in South Africa to do what we were just talking about, reindustrialising, with the help of green energy and platinum group metals and the green hydrogen that platinum can catalyse and so much more, including catalysing the hydrogen fuel cells to provide the green mobility that the world is demanding, and the stationary green power necessary to meet the Paris climate obligations and this could happen across the broadest of industrial fronts.

We should be freed up to lead the way and Anglo’s reshaping and simplification will allow us to do that.

The thing that we got to be concerned about is the South African diamond mine that Anglo will separate from, and that is Venetia Diamond Mine in Limpopo.

That is an incredibly good mine and it's just going underground now. I think South Africans need to be very vigilant that it falls into very good hands, which I'm sure Anglo will do.

I think they've had a lot of talks with the government, and it's going be much better than all the South African parts of Anglo being thrown out in a much rougher way as part of the bid for the company by the Australian mining company intent on acquiring it.

Hopefully, the reshaping and simplification of Anglo will be implemented very smoothly, and I think the outcome will be better for South Africa.

Kamwendo: Thanks so much. Martin Creamer will be back with another edition of At the Coalface at the same time next Friday.