The mining sector is transforming as technology presents new industry opportunities, says emerging miner Lurco Group COO Aubrey Chauke.
“For junior, emerging and midtier miners, modernisation programmes could be easier to implement for coal projects as compared to other commodities.”
However, emerging miners – despite being the backbone of the sector – face difficulties in accessing capital for project development, he notes.
“This is why we need forums such as emerging miners associations to ensure that capital is administered accordingly for younger players to explore their dynamic ideas and capabilities, and to amplify the systems currently in place. This will ensure a sustainable future for emerging miners,” Chauke explains.
Meanwhile, midtier miner Menar chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela tells Engineering News & Mining Weekly that coal and platinum mines, for example, have similar carbon footprints.
“Minimising the carbon footprint at coal mines is not a time consuming and expensive investment. It is all about making the decision, from the outset, to apply all available technologies for the lowest possible impact on the environment,” he adds.
Mkhabela asserts that Menar focuses on dust suppression at its mine roads and processing plants, as well as the optimal use of diesel to minimise the environmental impact of its operations.
Further, while there is a trend away from coal by mining majors, “the industry should thrive in the junior and midtier space”, law firm Webber Wentzel partner Jonathan Veeran points out.
“We have seen a number of large-scale divestments of coal operations, with several majors looking to, or having disposed of, their coal operations,” he adds.
He comments that some difficulty may arise in securing funding for these operations, as South African financial institutions no longer have an appetite for coal projects.
However, from a mining perspective, coal will still be a major commodity and export for the foreseeable future, says Veeran.
“Coal mining is a particularly dirty game but companies are aware of that, and are making strides to improve.” However, he warns that the harsh economic reality and its impact on the country’s functioning must be recognised.
“We are dependent on coal and, at the moment, it might not be in our best interest to invest in a whole new fleet of power generation sources.”
Veeran highlights that it will be interesting to see how the focus on driving clean fuel technologies will play out, particularly in the coal realm.