Challenges Associated With Further Development Of The Waterberg Coalfield

Jeffrey, L.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2005
The Waterberg Coalfield has vast potential to become a significantmining and industrial centre in South Africa. Its future developmenthinges on a number of critical decisions that must be made jointly by government, power utilities and industry, and on some technical and economic challenges that must initially be overcome. Sufficient water is the primary key to enabling exploitation, together with an adequate market for the large volumes of low-grade coal. As the most likely consumer of this coal will be either a power station or a petrochemical complex, the need for additional energy will be a driving force in the development of this coalfield. Conventional mining methods can exploit the shallow coal resources in both the Grootegeluk and the Vryheid formations, but alternative technologies such as coalbed methane extraction and underground coal gasification are the only currently known technologies that may be able to exploit the deep Grootegeluk Formation resources. However, extensive research is still required into these procedures, particularly with respect to the Waterberg coals. Transport infrastructure to the region is currently not sufficiently well developed to support large-scale exploitation of the region?s coal resources. In particular, the railway line would have to be extensively upgraded to allow the increased export of coal. Alternative transport methods such as pipelines would also have to be pursued to serve a large Sasol-type petrochemical complex or coal gas extraction. The road network would also require improvement, as only the roads between the main commercial centres are currently tarred. Dr Con Fauconnier, Kumba CEO, concluded his presentation to the Investing in African Mining Conference 2004 with the words: Again, it?s all about infrastructure? when it?s there, it enables the development of bulk mining projects which attract the resultant economic benefits for the region and country as a whole. These words aptly sum up one of the stumbling blocks to the future development of the Waterberg Coalfield.
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