Capturing worldwide investment for Africa
“Stellar had been struggling a bit, but a lot of people are talking up the diamonds market at the moment – the stockpiles De Beers built up over the last 20 years or so are running out, and diamond prices are going to go up,” says Bond.
Diamonds, gold and platinum may be the sexiest of Africa’s resources, but they don’t need Naomi Campbell to hype them up. Platinum is primarily an industrial metal, in demand because catalytic converters prices reached a peak early in 2008, but slumped subsequently to around $950 an ounce in January 2009. There’s platinum in Australia, but extraction costs made it unviable for many producers, some of which, like Platinum Australia, turned their attention to Africa.
LOW COST; FAST DEVELOPMENT
80 percent of the world’s platinum, almost 90 percent of its rhodium and about 35 percent of its palladium is obtained from the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa. With prices now up around $1,504 per ounce it’s well worth exploiting these assets again. Platinum Australia’s Smokey Hills project is among the lowest-cost resources in the world, and by attracting investors, including Soros in New York, Colonial First State Investments in Sydney and JP Morgan in London, the mine has been developed in record time. “In three and a half years we went from acquiring an interest in a project, to commercial production,” says Managing Director, John Lewins.
His target is to generate $35 million a year from the project. The host country benefits in at least four ways: 60 percent of the workforce is locally employed; nine percent of the equity is owned by BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) partners; infrastructure is improved; and the royalties and taxes levied by the South African Government go to support the economy.
In many ways this is the story of South Africa. It is blessed with natural resources that are increasingly in demand as world population, and along with industrial demand, increases. Uranium in Namibia, copper in Zambia, and hydrocarbons in Nigeria and Ghana are mature industries – however, Africa’s ability to supply world demand has hardly been tested yet.
MOZAMBIQUE JOINS THE CLUB
One of the poorest nations in the world will soon follow South Africa’s example. The demand for steel from the BRIC group of countries has created an insatiable market for coal, and in particular for high thermal output coking coal. And Mozambique has plenty of that: it also has a port that faces east across the Indian Ocean to industrial centres from Maharashtra to Gujarat.
Among the international operators that have acquired coal tenements in the Lower Zambezi Coal Basin are Brazil’s Companhia Vale do Rio Doce and Riversdale Mining of Australia. Riversdale is already active in South Africa where it operates the only true anthracite mine in South Africa, the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) in KwaZulu-Natal. To put it in perspective, that might yield 10 million tonnes in its ten years projected life, but the Benga anthracite project currently being developed in Mozambique’s Tete province (in a 65/35 joint venture with Tata Steel) is a 45 billion tonne resource. Its first shipment is expected to leave Beira later in 2011. By 2016 Benga will be shipping 20 million tonnes of anthracite a year.
The Mozambique economy will get substantial revenues from royalties and taxes. The country further benefits from the inflow of mining expertise from both Australia and South Africa, not to mention Brazil. “Mozambique’s legislative system is modelled on that of South Africa,” says Andries Engelbrecht, Riversdale’s COO.
Not far away from the Benga project lies Riversdale’s Zambeze Coal Project which Engelbrecht confidently describes as one of the biggest open pit coal resources in the world. It has, he says, been assessed as a resource of 90 billion tonnes, easily accessible, on relatively flat terrain and not far from Tete and the Zambezi River.
Zambeze is a joint venture with China Communications Construction Company, in which CCCC contributed around $800 million to the projected $2 billion it will cost to construct the mine. Institutional investors in the markets from New York and Toronto to Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai are going to be very keen to buy into development on this scale.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”