South Africa’s Central Basin coalfields – Witbank, Highveld and Ermelo – currently South Africa’s most important coal-mining area, are still supplying most of the country’s coal and will be doing so for many years, insists senior coal analyst Xavier Prevost.
This is despite an assertion by growth consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan metals and mining analyst Wonder Nyanjowa that the future of South Africa’s coal supply lies in the coal-resource-rich Waterberg coalfield, which, he says, represents the future of electricity generation and coal-mining in South Africa.
Prevost says that, although there is a lot of exploration activity in the Waterberg coalfield, “one should not jump the gun and label it the future of South African coal supply”.
“There is a lot of talk of expansion into the Waterberg coalfield; however, some of the companies reporting very large reserves do not have a clear understanding of the complexity of mining and the processing required by the coals present in the area.
“Exxaro, the company that so many years ago began develop- ing the first Waterberg mine, has the expertise and reserves required. To have a future in the region requires the development of big mines. The Waterberg is not a place for small-scale mining. Companies must be prepared to build up projects with an output of between 20- to 30-million tons per annum,” says Prevost.
He adds that, if the Waterberg coalfield is the future of South African coal-mining, it is certainly a long-term future that will most certainly not materialise by 2011.