On-The-Air (26/11/2021)

26th November 2021 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

On-The-Air (26/11/2021)

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: Namibia’s entry into the export of green hydrogen is expected to create 200 000 jobs.

Creamer: This is absolutely incredibly important news that is coming through now. Namibia is going headlong into green hydrogen. Of course, they will be using our platinum for electrolysing, but the big thing is that the investment that they are attracting now through inviting proposals is going to create a huge number of jobs.

The first one that is being looked at now is R9-billion worth and that one will create 200 000 jobs. They are going to go in January for another one. The area that they have already allocated to putting in solar panels and also wind energy is bigger than Joburg. They have got the land and they are going to do all this close to the town of Lüderitz, which also need fresh water. So, part of the process here when you actually get the hydrogen and the oxygen out of the sea water, you also processing the water in a way that you get excess free fresh water. That is going to be put into the town of Lüderitz, for the people of the area, who have always wanted as much water as it can get.

There are massive benefits here and I have just been listening to the Japanese now come through on the green hydrogen, which they have been fighting for, for so long. They are saying that it is a massive opportunity for the youth of the world at the moment. They are talking about millions of jobs that are going to come through. They are saying that the youth have been waiting for so long for some break and this is the big chance they have got, green hydrogen.

Kamwendo: South Africa is currently benefitting from the very strong export of platinum into China.

Creamer: Yes, this export has just been boosted all of sudden and what it has been described as is above identified demand. It is way above identified demand. It looks like the Chinese are trying to make sure their air is clean and instead of having a loading of three grams per tonne on a truck, they are pushing it to a level of 12 grams and more per tonne per truck.

This has suddenly led to a surge in demand for platinum. We know that the World Platinum Investment Council is projecting a surplus of platinum for this year and next year, but with this suddenly coming on the scene, they are beginning to wonder whether they will, by the end of next year, not be in a situation where they will find themselves with constrained supply of platinum. That is how the Chinese are buying up the platinum at the moment and it is also related, of course, to China keeping its air clean and probably also to the upcoming hydrogen economy.

Kamwendo: The 4 000 MW electricity that the mining industry is planning to generate will be a great boost for Eskom.

Creamer: This is fantastic, because Parliament has just been told that Eskom really needs another 4 000 MW to 6 000 MW of additional capacity so that they will have what they call reserve capacity that they have got to keep available in case something closes or breaks down. But, the Minerals Council has just come through now saying that their members can offer Eskom two thirds of the 6 000 MW and that means that the South African public do not have to pay a cent for the building of that electricity capacity, the government does not have to pay anything.

This is R60-billion of renewable power that mining in some cases is already putting in, but it won’t cost the fiscus a cent. It will really assist Eskom at the moment to do the maintenance it needs going forward. Eskom needs that reserve spin so that it can go in and do the maintenance. If you can give it an additional 4 000 MW to 6 000 MW that enables Eskom to do proper maintenance. What the mines are talking about is about 4 000 MW and this is already applied for. It is wonderful news and supplements Eskom. Another big speech was given last night by Sir Mick Davis. We know Sir Mick Davis from these parts.

He used to be the CFO of Eskom, when I used to go in an interview there. He spoke last night and he said, Eskom is a resolvable problem, and not like other situations in South Africa where you need many generations to sort thing out. You can fix Eskom in 10-years. But, he saying what you have got to do is that you have got to fly people in. There are so many former Eskom people around the world, if you just helicopter them in for a period so that they can work alongside existing people in the power station, they can transfer the necessary skills to make sure that the price of producing this electricity drops.

To allow Eskom to get to a situation where it is not charging an absolute fortune for the electricity anymore and you get in to a reasonably priced situation. He said the municipalities will have to pay for the electricity they receive and if they are not doing so, the government will have to negotiate something so that Eskom doesn’t suffer from this, because that really is a situation that is giving them a debt problem. He also said that there will  have to be a lot of minds put together to try to lower Eskom’s debt. None of this can’t be done and he is saying in 10 years, Eskom could be preforming very well again and could be giving us electricity that we need at  price that is reasonable – some optimism around our energy future in South Africa.

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