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: A stunning new South African vision statement can be expected on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011 – at 11 o’ clock. That sounds very intriguing.
Creamer: I think South Africans now should go along to their calendars and they should mark the 11th day of the 11th month 2011 and they should also put down 11 o’clock, because that is when they are planning to make a new vision statement for South Africa.
This is the National Planning Commission (NPC). We had the great political angst in the nineties when we reached a constitutional settlement and we developed one of the best constitutions in the world that still give us goose-bumps when we read that preamble that the country belongs to all South Africans and curing all the hurt of the past and how we did that. Well, we are looking for another one on economic lines and this is what the NPC is coming forth with.
Hopefully it will be vision that also gives us goose-pimples, because South Africa needs something like that at the moment. We are bit down in the mouth, we can’t even get petrol at the moment. There are strikes, inflation and problems that we are worried about like not getting foreign investment.
So, we need to really come up with something good and the people who are heading it is Trevor Manual, of course at top, but also Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been doing this roadshow and he has been saying mark your calendars on the 11th day the 11th month 2011 and be ready at 11 o’clock. We want to do that, because we have got to get rid of a lot of things in South Africa and we can’t duck the real issues.
De Gouveia: We will definitely mark that on our calendars.
And in other good news, South African steel is being used in the UK’s tallest sculpture to mark next year’s London Olympics. Tell us a bit more about this structure.
Creamer: Forget about the Statue of Liberty and the Eifel Tower now look at the Orbit Tower in London, because we own a part of it. That South African steel is in there coming from our ground in Sishen and Thabazimbi, the iron-ore, made in Vereeniging, the structural steel that we are developing there and also down in the Cape.
We form part of this new iconic stadium that is going to be the legacy of the London Olympics. It will overlook the stadium by a long shot and it looks like nothing on earth. I must say the design of it looks like the Eifel Tower wrapped around a giant’s finger, a giant mangled structure.
That will be about 1 500 tons of steel, not only South African steel, of course, it’s also coming from many parts of the world like Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, North and South America. This whole set-up was as a result of a chance meeting between the mayor of London Boris Johnson and Lakshmi Mittal who owns ArcelorMittal, who actually producers our steel in South Africa.
In fact, I think it took place in a loo, where they bumped into each other at Davos and decided that they now need to leave an iconic statement like an Eifel Tower that will be a legacy after the Olympic games in London, that will draw the crowds. They are hoping to draw about a million people a year and generate about £10-million a year and we will know there is South African steel in there.
De Gouveia: A little piece of South Africa in London and they say it accommodate 5 000 visitors a day. What are the plans after the Olympics, what would this structure contain for example.
Creamer: This structure you won’t only look out from it in 360o, it will also look down on you. It has got giant mirrors reflecting the sky and it is in a part of London which has been rundown, so they are hoping that this will be a regeneration point. Just like people go on the London Eye and they go and see the Tower Bridge, they will go along to see the Orbit Tower.
De Gouveia: How tall will this structure be?
Creamer: This structure is 114,5 metres tall, which means it is just over half the height of the Eifel Tower, but way above the full structure of the Statue of Liberty, which is 93 metres.
De Gouveia: Southern Africa must stop ‘squandering’ its coal and begin acknowledging it as a ‘miracle mineral’. Now there were calls late last year for coal to be declared a strategic national asset. What is happening with regards to this?
Creamer: There are still moves to do that and we are having a coal roadmap developed. The first facts from that will come in the third quarter of this year, but not the full report.
There has been a slight delay on that. Also, next door, Botswana is developing a coal map. So, both countries deciding that we have got to use this endowment in a better way, because we burn it all.
You know, 120-million tons of this is burnt a year and in 2020 we will move that to 160-million tons. So it is not as if we are going to use less coal. A lot of people are complaining about the use of coal, people that are protagonists and know the value of coal, the ones that see it as a miracle mineral say that we should use it better.
The say that we are squandering this endowment, and want to make sure we get the chemicals we can out of it and get the electricity far more efficiently, with not so much money spent in the backend of it to clean it up.
Doing things with the mountains of waste coal that we have got, because there is so much value in there and so much wealth that can be created along with so many jobs that can be created. Many protagonists are now coming forward and saying let coal play a key role.
There is also underground coal gasification. There is a lot of that coal that is to deep to give an appetite to investors to reach. That underground coal gasification is better than the coal itself. Let’s get that gas up, we can not only use it to generate electricity in a far more low-carbon way, but we can also get chemicals and valuable goods out of it.
There are so many things to get from coal and people are looking at it very carefully. By next year we should have worked out exactly what we are going to do with our coal, not only ourselves but also neighbouring Botswana.
De Gouveia: You say that is a definitely a move in the right direction.
Creamer: I think it is a very important move that we don’t see coal simply as something that we burn that is actually causing this problem in the world of climate change, but that we do a lot more with it that is far more useful and beneficial for the country.
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.