Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Gillian De Gouveia speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
De Gouveia: South Africa’s soaring iron-ore business has been given another world-beating boost. Tell us a bit about that.
Creamer: You know South Africa has been doing so well with its iron-ore. We are not a huge player, of course, Australia and Brazil are the big players, but we are such a quality player and we are proving our quality again.
I think that we will have the Australians and Brazilians eating their heart out at this latest new modcon that we’ve got there. This is a sampling plant, which proves the specifications of our iron-ore and it is just robots, modcons and high tech.
We saw it in action, but one of the most beautiful things about it is that its being built by Kumba, which is part of Anglo American and also Transnet, they own the buildings.
It will be an open access facility robolab for black economic empowerment partners coming down the line. What a wonderful gesture in South Africa that we have this open access philosophy.
At the moment Kumba is making a fortune out of the iron-ore. Their profit last year was R14-billion so you can see how iron-ore is pumping in the world and we are ready for it.
Gouveia: What does that mean for the ordinary South African?
Creamer: This is an economic boost for the whole of South Africa. The tax that is paid by these big players is enormous.
That goes into the fiscus. When you go to see what they do for near-mine communities, I mean it is enormous, just the nursery schools. I felt like sending my grand kids to the nursery school that they have in the Northern Cape.
Gouveia: The Western Cape is looking to the oil and gas industry to enrich its new Industrial Development Zone.
Creamer: Again, the IDZ, which was a mantra in the past, we were going to set up these industrial development zones but they never came to the party. It is all about attracting foreign direct investment and now we are back. Also, at Saldanha as we saw this very modern laboratory to measure the specifications of iron-ore.
On that base, we looked across and we could see a rig in the port and the head of the finance and economic affairs Minister Alan Winde pointed to it and said that is what they need there. That brings in hundreds of millions of dollars overall and a lot of jobs.
Just that particular eight-day stay of the rig added to our current account in South Africa R200-million. That is the sort of thing we should be attracting to create jobs and to create growth. This will be part of this IDZ plan that we encourage the people who are drilling on the west coast of Africa to come and service their oil and gas rigs there.
That will be a great business besides all the other things that the Minister Rob Davies is planning also. He wants beneficiation and we are just within eyeshot we can see the potential coming in from Exxaro with titanium where he wants to add value by creating titanium alloy in that IDZ.
De Gouveia: Russia has set up a new fund to stimulate mineral exploration in South Africa.
Creamer: The Russian fund is something that hit us out of the blue. We see Russia has set up a new fund to stimulate mineral exploration prospecting in South Africa, which we desperately need.
They came in and signed up a deal with our Department of Mineral Resources and they also spoke to President Jacob Zuma and confirmed that they want to set up a fund with the Industrial Development Corporation, in fact, it is already in motion where they will use our State-owned Industrial Development Corporation to set up a fund to stimulate exploration prospecting in this country, which has really been neglected.
South Africa has been exploited but not explored. So, this a very important fund and the company coming in this time is Norilsk. We’ve seen the other players, Renova, the Russian company, in our Northern Cape with manganese. We see Evraz, the Russian company with Highveld Steel in Witbank.
We could see some beneficiation as well as Rob Davies has laid his plan down at the Western Cape, coming in with the help from Russians. They do seem keen on helping us with the beneficiation. My only upset with this Norilsk initiative is that we had to pick up the details ourselves. There was no official announcement.
This sort of presented the old face of Russia to me, you know. Do they want to do things in secret. I hope that that is not the case. I also think it behoves our government to have made some sort of announcement from Pretoria that Norilsk, which is the world’s biggest palladium producer and that is an import thing because we are platinum producers and were are going to be producing a lot of palladium.
The Russians with far sight and looking to coming in here. Norilsk already has footholds in Mpumalanga and Botswana. So, we see them very active at government level, they seem to like to work at government level and State-owned enterprise level.
I wish they’d called the media in, because I think we deserve to be called in and this is a national patrimony they are dealing with so we have to be called in, constitutionally speaking.
De Gouveia: 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.