Pretoria – Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has launched a R15 million feasibility study that will identify particular components that can be manufactured for fuel cell units.
The Isondo Precious Minerals (IPM) study was launched by the Minister on Tuesday. It is intended to accelerate mineral beneficiation and localisation of fuel cell manufacturing in South Africa.
“…We are in a difficult time as producers and exporters of primary mineral resources as a result of the significant price fall of commodities. This has affected many of the industrial mineral commodities that we produce as a country… We have realised that we need to find new uses for our resources,” said Minister Davies.
There has been a rise in the technological development of fuel cells with demand for platinum in the fuel sector being at its most stable.
“It is as a response to this demand that government and the platinum mining sector resolve to encourage an increase in the demand for platinum… We have an additional interest to make sure that those new uses generate and support industrial development in South Africa, so as to capture the manufacturing that takes place in this particular industry,” said Minister Davies.
South Africa has honed in on two potential uses of fuel cell technology.
“The first is the small power unit that could be used to power remote areas 20km away from the existing grid connection. The other use is of powering underground equipment within the mining industry.
“What we are doing as government is to support different initiatives that can realise the industrial development opportunities. This will also help us to achieve the beneficiation objectives,” said Minister Davies.
The study is envisaged to be completed in a year’s time.
“What we want to do through this feasibility study is to understand better the building blocks of fuel cell units and to look at the particular competencies and capabilities that can be developed in the country.
“We want to establish this technology on the African continent as something which builds into the platinum industry to support and sustain the expansion and stabilisation of the industry,” the Minister said.
IPM Chief Executive Officer Vinay Somera said the feasibility study is evidence of IPM’s commitment to bring together world class proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and South African precious metal supply to significantly reduce the cost of PEM.
The Department of Trade and Industry is working closely with the Industrial Development Corporation on the development of a fuel cell roadmap.