On-The-Air (24/05/2024)

24th May 2024 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (24/05/2024)

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: The signing of an agreement for a new exploration system raised great excitement at this week’s Junior Indaba.

Creamer: Exploration is something we have really got to get going and doing and because of the past where the private sector was mainly in control and then turning over to State, there has been a huge delay, which is now coming to an end. This week, there were massive expressions of excitement at the Junior Indaba, because they gave notice that they had signed what they called a service level agreement (SLA). Involved with this SLA is a Canadian firm, which is well versed in the whole exploration business. We are hoping that they will set up a cadastre here with the proper cadastre you have an orderly structure for minerals development for exploration.

Normally, the junior miners come in and do all the hard yards, then they sell off to the majors and that is the way the patent has worked in the world in Canada, Australia. That is where it is starting to emerge here. There is a target that we want to get 5% of world investment in exploration, but people close to it say, look, let's try for 1% first, because we are well below 1% at the moment. If we can just get that 1%, it will make a massive difference too us. The whole idea of getting this done is big, because South Africa is seen as having a historical advantage. A lot of the other countries haven't got the history that we have got. Many particularly African countries which are getting investment now, they haven't got a history. So, there are a lot of areas where we know mining has taken place. Investors love that and they call that brownfield investment. They know that are metals and minerals are there, because history confirms it, and then they prepare to invest, because the risk is lower. Whereas, if you go into a greenfield exploration, as they call it, the risk is higher.

So, South Africa seems to be in a very good position to attract investment. We know that such brownfield investment has already happened in the Northern Cape, where they have gone into areas where there is copper. They know historically there has been copper there and as a result, they have secured investment from Australia. They have got investment from outside of South Africa, and they are getting investment from inside South Africa as well. The IDC has also set up R400-million for small investors to come forward with their plans for exploration. People were saying at the Junior Indaba they hope this is fully transparent, because these are non-repayable grants. People will get grants from the IDC to start drilling and looking for metals and people would like full transparency of that so they know exactly what is going on, ahead of the cadastre system, as we call it coming into force.

Kamwendo: The big green hydrogen project in the Eastern Cape this week concluded a massive solar power agreement.

Creamer: This was a fantastic solar power agreement involving 1 200 megawatts coming in from De Aar. De Aar is one of the hottest places in South Africa. This is going to supply the solar power for what is the Hive Energy project, that is the Hive Green Hydrogen project. At the head of this, chairing the whole enterprise the whole project, is Thulani Gcabashe.

We know Thulani as the former CEO of Eskom and is the former chairman of the Standard Bank. He has the company BuiltAfrica and BuiltAfrica has gone into partnership with Hive Energy. They are planning to do a final investment decision in the not too distant future. In the meantime, they preparing their activities in Coega, in the Eastern Cape, They love the Port of Coega, they can train people at the port. They are also close to the sea where they will put the renewable energy through the sea and get the green hydrogen. They will then convert that green hydrogen into green ammonia. They are working with the Japanese at the moment to make sure that they are very low cost. Their ambition is to be the lowest cost producer of green ammonia.

You have to have that derivative when you want to transport the hydrogen. You transport in the ships as green ammonia. Japan wants a lot of this, countries are looking to this. In fact, without going this green hydrogen route, all the events you go to now even the Junior Indaba, say if we don't go the green hydrogen route, we are not going to reach the net zero targets that we have agreed to with the Paris Accord on climate change. So, all this is very important, and it is great that South Africa has a project like this in the Eastern Cape that is advancing very well. It is well conceptualised, it is well controlled and it can put us into this new era. I am sure this is just the start in the Eastern Cape, because they are talking about other stages of this, eventually taking something like 6000 megawatts of solar power, so it is going to be quite big done there.

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