Worsening pollution crises and global warming have brought the world’s critical dependence on fossil fuels into the spotlight and the need for more sustainable and renewable-energy solutions has become increasingly urgent, notes coal miner Exxaro, which has recommitted to being part of the solution towards sustainable development.
“The coal industry remains a key pillar of the current economy, without which we could not survive. Not only does coal fuel over 90% of our electricity generation, but coal mining is also the third-largest employer in the mining sector, with over 87 000 employees – a number that is likely to increase,” the miner notes.
Further, coal is also South Africa’s third-most-valuable source of foreign exchange, after platinum and gold. “It’s no exaggeration, therefore, to say that, without our coal sector, South Africa would be crippled.”
Having marked World Environment Day earlier this month, Exxaro renewed its pledge to lead South Africa’s coal sector into a new way of working.
The miner says it is focused on conserving natural resources and reducing the effects of pollutants on the environment by ensuring all activities are properly authorised, complying with all statutory and nonstatutory environmental requirements, and using energy and water as efficiently as possible. Further, it pledges to actively participate in and uphold voluntary benchmarks, such as the global carbon and water disclosure projects and the JSE’s Socially Responsible Investment Index, and develop innovative solutions to address environmental impacts and the use of natural resources.
Two of the goals the organisation is trying to attain include initiating particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) monitoring for all its business units, and implementing meteorological monitoring, which will be used for dust dispersion modelling, baseline characterisation, ambient monitoring, and dust fallout monitoring and reporting. Both goals have target dates in the latter half of next year.
To date, Exxaro has bought meteorological monitoring equipment for some of its business units and for its greenfield projects, such as Thabametsi, with a commitment to buying more and initiating particulate matter monitoring as a priority in some business units and greenfield projects, such as Belfast.
As part of Exxaro’s energy and carbon management programme, its coal operations have focused on reducing energy consumption, including projects to specifically increase the efficiency of diesel and electricity use. The head office technology department has initiated a project to reduce diesel consumption at all operations.
To facilitate energy-saving initiatives, energy-intensity targets are set yearly, based on the prior two-year performance for each operation, and monitored monthly. These targets were reviewed at the end of 2017 and five-year, long-term targets have been proposed. These will be implemented in the second half of this year.
The miner is also committed to protecting and improving water quality by ensuring the water it discharges is of a similar quality to or better than the water originally sourced. Central to this are the three water treatment plants planned for Exxaro’s Mpumalanga region as part of its long-term water management strategy.
The plants will have total capacity to treat 17.5 Mℓ/d.
The plant at Matla has been operational for two years. The second plant, at North Block Complex, has been operational since January last year, while the plant at Arnot is being planned as part of mine-closure activities.