In a presentation to the country’s Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, the Minerals Council of South Africa stated its support to move South Africa away from coal-fired power, though they emphasised it must be done judiciously and systemically.
The presentation highlighted some key statistics in relation to the role coal plays in the country. Coal-related energy accounts for 45% of employment, 60% of GDP and 70% of export earnings.
Coal is hugely important to specific communities (particularly Mpumalanga, affecting some 450,000 households). It creates employment for 120,000 people and supports >500,000 households nationally
Energy-intensive sectors employ 6.7 million people across the country, approximately 45% of all employed people
Mining, as an energy-intensive sector, requires 24-hour, stable, baseload power. For health and safety, access, and production reasons, mines cannot function effectively without guaranteed access to power.
While other industries (particularly tertiary industries such as business services or trade) can operate adequately on back-up power, this is not a feasible option for energy-critical operations such as in mining.
Roger Baxter, CEO of the Mining Institute said in the presentation: “The mining industry is committed to the systematic, planned decarbonisation process, much done by member companies to reduce GHG emissions. The recently cabinet-approved Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) provides for a more ambitious target for GHG emissions reductions.”
However, the Minerals Council does not see that the increased immediate term risks related to this ambitious target are being adequately addressed (especially risks to electricity supply). Technical, financial and capacity building together with enabling policy framework is required for South Africa to meet the NDC.
The mining body believes that pragmatism must prevail during the transition, to minimise disruptions to reliable electricity supply.