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On-The-Air (07/07/2023)

2023-07-07_safm

7th July 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Bongiwe Zwane speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Zwane: A big coal mine in Limpopo this week announced that it will be generating its own solar power.

Creamer: It is amazing how coal companies are going for clean energy. I think that Dr Nombasa Tsengwa, who is the CEO of Exxaro, should get a big thumbs up for this. She is going to generate 68 megawatts of solar power at the big Grootegeluk mine in Limpopo. She is going to use that energy to power her coal mines.

This tells a big story. This shows that the coal miners know that, in the future, they are going to have to move towards renewable energy. That is why Exxaro has now got a subsidiary called Cennergi and that is even looking outside of South Africa to build up a big renewable energy business. So, as the coal business declines, they will be building the renewable energy business, which I think is remarkable strategy. This strategy has been built very successfully, because Nombasa had the baton handed to her by the previous CEO, Mxolisi Mgojo, and before that, Sipho Nkosi, and before that Dr Con Fauconnier. They have really worked this out well, they have seen the future and I think that deserves a massive thumbs up.

Zwane: More and more mines are turning to high-pressure water power to energise underground mining equipment.

Creamer: Mines have to be cooled, our mines are deep and they get hot. So, you have to send the water down the mine to cool it, but in sending the water down the mine, that water gets incredible potential energy, because of the gravitational pull. So, by the time it reaches its destination, you can use that energy and you can use it to actually drill the rock. That's how powerful it is.

This is what they are now doing against the background of our whole energy crisis. These deep level minds can turn to clean underground energy using this water power to drill and also using it across the board now, because of the urgency of the situation to be green, not to contaminate and also to make sure you use less water because they recycle this water. They are getting a big acceptance, very promisingly by the major mining companies. The high-pressure water is now on more than 50 mine sites as the primary power driver, which is incredible and driving machines and being integrated even with trackless mining machines underground, those are machines underground that are not on rail, and travel on rubber tires.

So, we just see that they are going to use less water overall, they don't contaminate the water, and they reuse the water and in a closed loop, and that us what the world is demanding at the moment.

Zwane: A beautiful pink diamond found in the Orange River by small-scale miners this week fetched $8-million at a sale.

Creamer: I think that Yamkela Makupula must take a big bow here. She is the CEO of the South African Diamond Producers Organisation and they work in the Middle Orange River area. We know that this area used to have a lot of diamond miners before, they had like 25 000 of them.

That number has dropped, because the lack of proper legislation to back them to about 5 000 miners. Now, we hear this great story about how, although they are getting the normal diamonds, and they recovering them on a daily basis, here they come across this beautiful pink diamond. This has fetched $8-million plus for just under 30 carats. This is a record that they have achieved. They also have their own tender process, which is very clever. They are organising themselves well in the Middle Orange River and this is for the benefit of that area, to give the area more jobs, to make sure that they can start growing this sort of diamond recovery.

They do need backing from the legislative framework in South Africa, which they are talking to government about. I think, eventually, we are going to see a great recovery of the diamond business in the Middle Orange River area, because the world is prepared to pay a premium for these diamonds, which the small miners don't dig deep to find. They recover them from the surface and so it is really environmentally friendly as well.

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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