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DTI commits R15 million to study fuel cell market

23 March 2016 News

R15 million has been earmarked by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for a study aimed at identifying particular components that can be manufactured and assembled locally for fuel cell units.

Speaking at the launch of the Isondo Precious Minerals (IPM) feasibility study project in Cape Town on 9 February 2016, minister Rob Davies asserted that the project, which is intended to accelerate mineral beneficiation and localisation of fuel cell manufacturing in South Africa, will go further than government had previously envisaged.

Dr Rob Davies.
Dr Rob Davies.

“It is a known fact that we are in a difficult time as producers and exporters of primary mineral resources as a result of the significant price-fall of commodities. And this has affected many of the industrial mineral commodities that we produce as a country. Because of the instability presented by commodities price-fall we have realised that we need to find new uses for our resources,” he said.

Davies mentioned that there has been a rise in technological development of fuel cells with demand for platinum in the fuel cell 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. Amongst the factor of increasing demand 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 Davies.

He added that South Africa has homed in on two potential uses of fuel cell technology that the country could drive and manufacture around: “The first is the small power unit that could be used to power remote areas 20 km away from the existing grid connection and 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 Davies.

Minister Davies stated that 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,” he stated. “We want to establish this technology on the African continent as something which builds into the platinum industry that supports and sustains an expansion and stabilisation of the industry.”

Chief executive officer for IPM, Vinay Somera, added that the feasibility study is evidence of IPM’s commitment to bringing together world class Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells and South African precious metal supply to significantly reduce the cost of PEM. The DTI is working closely with HySA and the Industrial Development Corporation on the development of a fuel cell roadmap.





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