Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Xolani Gwala speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Gwala: Government, business and organised labour are in broad agreement to grow the South African mining industry by 30%.
Creamer: This is a unique advantage that South Africa has. We have the Mining Charter and the feeling now is that this is a unique way of actually creating cohesion in the mining industry.
There is no other charter in South Africa that has got this sort of cohesion that the Mining Charter has and there is no other alliance in the world that brings together government, business and labour in this organised fashion.
So it is actually a comparative advantage and it also defines growth. This 30% is the growth that they have defined for the next five to ten years.
People are saying now that if we want to get the social dividend out of our mining that everybody is looking for, let’s get behind this Mining Charter, let’s fund it and lets make sure that it is resourced so that we can extract from it this growth that we need and the transformation. Growth and transformation go together, but they need that growth.
Gwala: Anglo American is pledging to help build the platinum equivalent of the US’s famous Silicon Valley in South Africa.
Creamer: There has been a response to the State Intervention in Minerals Sector (Sims) document and Anglo American has come forward with its own 70-page response to that. It sees a lot of laudatory goals in the Sims document but it sees the route that people are talking as wrong.
Anglo is saying that if the government can put in place policies that actually create this growth in the mining industry, they are prepared to commit to all the other linkages.
In other words, build the mining industry and then we will build the manufacturing side-by-side. One of the issues that they are raising again is the very important one of the Platinum Valley that they are talking of. It is a sort of equivalent to Silicon Valley.
This is also on the agenda of the Department of Trade and Industry, they want to have a special economic zone where you transfer these technologies into the zone and other areas will be separate from the zone so that you can actually get more out of the platinum. We have got platinum, can we get the fuel-cells out of it if we create a sort of platinum valley. Can we do more with catalytic converters, because we already have the catalytic converters.
We know that there are new technologies coming through that make it far easier to move the platinum from the metal and mineral into products. Several companies, Anglo American Platinum, the biggest, but also smaller companies are looking to a type of beneficiation hub where you can add value to our platinum metals.
Gwala: So in fact they are saying forget about the crisis going on at the moment, look long-term, find out how you can create value for everybody concerned.
Creamer: The big thing is the growth. They are saying put in policies that create growth and then we will do the best we can to develop all these linkages, which actually create the jobs.
Gwala: The World Gold Council has been in South Africa to stop Central African warlords from damaging gold’s future.
Creamer: The World Gold Council has actually been doing roundtables the world over. They have been in town this week and consulting around this whole issue about the conflict-free gold.
It is extremely important that we get gold that is untainted by human rights abuses and by conflict, because you can just have a situation where people say don’t buy African gold and that will be a huge blow for us.
We can already see legislation coming through in the United States, the Dodd-Frank Act, where it is forcing business that is on the Stock Exchange on Wall Street to make sure that they don't use any tainted gold and any tainted tin, tungsten and tantalum coming out of Central Africa, mainly the eastern part of the DRC where they still haven’t been able to stop the illicit grip by errant army commanders on the minerals trade.
It is not only going to be the World Gold Council that does it, they are obviously going to want to ring-fence the gold with their members. The council wants to guarantee that this is untainted and their members will have to go along with them. The other issue is the millions of artisanal miners that get access to market via a different route.
When they get raw gold from the Kivu areas, they take it and they put it through the system. This is what is now putting a threat to products coming out of Africa. It is also the case with tin, tungsten and tantalum.
You will see American companies will be forced to declare to the SEC that they have no tainted products. It is easier for them to say that they are not going to get anything from Africa, because it is just too much work, a whole pile of paperwork: “I could end up in jail if a make the wrong statement, let me avoid Africa and buy from other countries”, they may conclude. So it is very important now that they actually get down to making sure all these metals and minerals are delinked from anything that is a human rights abuse or a conflict.
Gwala: So in a way it is the Kimberley Process of the gold sector.
Creamer: They haven’t actually reached a point of defining it yet. It is still in draft form and that is why they are consulting and they are in Tanzania at the moment and they will be in Melbourne next week and that will be the final hurdle. Then they will come together and it depends on what the consultations raise, but the whole issue of artisanal miners and small-scale miners needs to be dealt with. Other bodies are coming in to deal with that, notably the OECD and the European Union to make sure that there is transparency and a clean approach with regard to metals and minerals coming out of Africa.
Gwala: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.