Mining Mirror May 2018 - Page 3

Comment Coal – king for another day Get in touch @LeonLouw3 llouw@interactmedia.co.za D espite all the talk about renewable energy projects and nuclear power generation in South Africa, coal is still an important cog in the wheel. The South African energy sector relies on coal-fired power stations, whether we like it or not. And there is no shortage of coal in South Africa. Whatever direction the energy roadmap takes, coal will remain a critical part of it. The Witbank coalfield, which has been providing South Africa with cheap coal for more than a century, still hosts enough coal to keep the lights burning for at least the next 50 years, although it must be said that the quality of the remaining deposits is not as good as it used to be. All the shallow, high-quality coal deposits in the Witbank/Middelburg/Delmas area of Mpumalanga have been mined out. But there are still several smaller, more technically difficult to mine, and lower-quality extensions of the great coalfields, which will keep the coal miners in that region busy for the next few years. In fact, as the great deposits disappear, and the multinationals depart, the deposits that remain offer great opportunities for new, innovative and versatile junior mining companies to thrive. Many new junior mining companies have been making their appearance in the coal dust of Mpumalanga over the past few years. Some — like Keaton Energy, Continental Coal and, dare we say it, Tegeta — have not been that successful. Others, like Seriti Resources, Wescoal (who acquired most of Keaton’s assets), and Canyon Coal, are gradually moving into the mid-tier and major mining space. What is more encouraging is the arrival of new companies like Black Royalty Minerals (BRM), whom we have reported on in previous issues of Mining Mirror. Moreover, BRM and Canyon Coal are developing operations in non-traditional mining regions (Bronkhorstspruit, in this case). BRM and Canyon Coal’s mines in this area are the only coal mines currently located in Gauteng. Mining Mirror visited Canyon Coal’s new Khanye Colliery this month — there can be no doubt that Canyon Coal is on the move. Under the dynamic leadership of Vuslat Bayoglu, Canyon Coal is on an expansion drive that will see them producing more than 10 million tonnes of coal per year by 2019. They intend having six mines producing coal in the next three years. Currently, Canyon is operating two, with production at Khanye imminent. However, Hakhano, their first mine that was commissioned 10 years ago, will run out of coal in 2019. Canyon has raised the bar when it comes to developing new projects, but BRM (Canyon’s neighbour at Khanye) is not to be outdone. Ndavhe Mareda, chairperson at BRM, has promised to open another three or four mines in the next year or two. The most interesting project in the pipeline is Canyon’s Ukufisa Mine, close to Springs, which will increase the number of coal mines in Gauteng to three. Canyon plans to start producing at Ukufisa early in 2019. Keep your eyes on this project: it has a huge resource and promises to present the innovative team at Canyon with enough challenges to keep them busy — if their other four or five projects won’t. Ukufisa is located in an area pockmarked by historical gold mining sites and is close to the old Grootvlei gold mine. There is a lot of excitement in the coal mining industry at the moment, and why not? Coal mines are normally shallow, easy to bring on line, and doesn’t require complex extraction and processing methods. And, depending on the coal price, of course, is normally highly profitable. Ideal for new companies to get a foot in the door. Leon Editor MAY 2018 MINING MIRROR [1]