Characterization Of The Coal Resources Of South Africa

Jeffrey, L. S.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2005
Estimates for South Africa?s coal recoverable reserves made in 1999range from nine to 59 billion tons; latest estimates by the Minerals Bureau suggest that 33 billion tons is a more likely figure. As much as 70% of that coal is located in the Waterberg, Witbank, and Highveld coalfields, as well as lesser amounts in the Ermelo, Free State and Springbok Flats coalfields. However, the Witbank and Highveld coalfields are approaching exhaustion (estimated 9 billion tons of recoverable coal remaining in each), while the coal quality or mining conditions in the Waterberg, Free State and Springbok Flats coalfields are significant barriers to immediate, conventional exploitation. New extraction technologies, technologies exploiting the energy content of the coal in situ, as well as suitable uses and markets for low-grade, high-ash coal are required before the country can utilize its admittedly vast coal resources. Major challenges for exploiting some Limpopo province coalfields are severe water shortages, insufficiently developed infrastructure, fragile environments and poor roof conditions due to the depth and complex geology. In the Central Basin (Witbank, Highveld and Ermelo coalfields) technical innovations for thin seam extraction, economic mining of both pillar coal and intrusion-fragmented resource blocks and the utilization of lower-grade coals are required. The success of the fluidized bed combustion technology is necessary to utilize the low-grade coals of the Free State and Molteno coalfields, while environmental exemption for past problems, together with strategies for mining small, disjointed thin-seam resource blocks, is required in KwaZulu-Natal. Clean coal technologies, coal cost and quality, environmental considerations, sustainable development, the growth of the South African economy and Government?s regulation of the electricity industry are the main challenges to the continued use of coal as South Africa?s primary energy source.
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