SA’s coal reserves will be depleted by 2050, says researcher

11th July 2008 By: Dennis Ndaba

The rate at which South Africa’s coal is being mined is unsus- tainable, and all known reserves will be depleted by 2050, says Bench Marks Foundation chief researcher David van Wyk.

“Within one generation, we will not only have consumed the entire resource but we will also have destroyed the environment, along with . . . our ability to produce food. We need to find alternative sources of energy, to reduce energy consumption and to guard against destroying our agricultural capacity,” says Van Wyk.

Wood Mackenzie senior coal indus- try analyst and consultant Xavier Prevost tells Mining Weekly all coal reserves will be depleted 50 years from now, but points out that “this does not mean that coal-mining will cease”.

“Maybe in 20 years from now new coal resources will be discovered. Given the current, high coal prices, people may be prompted to look at other areas, where coal has not been mined before.

“New research and new findings will also give the coal-mining industry a lifeline,” says Prevost.

The Bench Marks Foundation, an independent organisation monitoring corporate performance, has, in its new study, entitled ‘The Policy Gap 2’, called for the ring-fencing of the Mpumalanga Lake District (MLD) and the exclusion of all exploration and mining from the area.

The MLD is the largest freshwater catchment area in the southern hemisphere and represents the “last fragment of one of the most ancient land surfaces in Southern Africa”, the organisation says.