CAPE TOWN – The South African mining industry on Wednesday tabled a case for coal mining in the country, arguing that coal will continue to play an important role in the economy for the foreseeable future despite its declining profile and negative impact on the environment.
At the Mining Indaba on Wednesday, the Chamber of Mines published its report on the Coal Strategy for South Africa and also launched a collaborative approach by the South African coal producers called Coal Mining Matters initiative.
The Coal Strategy report outlines the challenges faced by the coal mining sector and provides some insight from different scenarios which could play out in the future depending on factors that could impact the demand for, and supply of coal.
Henk Langenhoven, chief economist at the Chamber, said that coal was not only instrumental in South Africa's development, but for the broader industrialisation of the country.
Langenhoven said that coal remained one of South Africa's most abundant and valuable resources as the country derived over 82% of electricity requirements from coal, and that its economic impact was far reaching, even on other industries such as the electricity, manufacturing, construction and finance sectors.
He said that for the year 2017, the coal industry employed 81 962 people, paid employees R22-billion in earnings, indirectly created and sustained 170 000 jobs outside the industry, paid R1.1-billion in royalties, and contributed R123.2-billion in sales.
"Negative views on coal and its impact on the environment have resulted in a precipitous decline in the use of coal by the major economies of the world. Many jurisdictions, including South Africa, have put in place strict environmental laws which have affected demand for coal. We have witnessed a total shift in demand for our coal from European markets to Asia," Langenhoven said.
"Ensuring that South Africa remains competitive and able to meet energy demands in the context of a developing economy, while at the same time reducing the country’s carbon emissions will require close collaboration between all stakeholders including suppliers, users of coal and regulators. Coal is the most variable and valuable chemical of all mineral commodities. It should be protected, nurtured and used wisely."
Langenhoven said that significant strides had been made in mitigating emissions arising from coal powered electricity generation, mentioning technologies such as high efficiency, low emissions drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.