Coal Mining – Supplying Energy to Africa
The aim of coal mining is to extract coal from the earth. In the UK and South Africa coal mines are called colliery, in Australia a colliery is a coal mine located underground.
Uses for Coal
Coal is a valuable commodity across the world. From the 1880s the most valued use for coal around the world has been to generate electricity. It is also used by the cement and steel industries as a fuel source to extract iron from iron ore and in the production of cement.
The History of Coal Mining
Coal was used in South Africa as far back as the Iron Age (300 – 1880 AD). During this time charcoal was used to melt copper and iron. Large-scale usage of coal only started happening around the middle of the 19th century.
Coal mining has undergone major development over the years. In the early days of coal mining men used to physically create tunnels to get to the coal deposits by digging. They then extracted the coal and transported the coal on mine carts. These days coal mines are technologically advanced and use sophisticated equipment including; trucks, jacks, conveyors, draglines and shearers to extract the coal.
Where Coal is Mined
There is approximately 890 billion tonnes of confirmed coal reserves around the world which means that there should be an adequate amount of coal to last approximately 110 years. Coal reserves can be found in nearly every country. The biggest coal reserves are located in the United States, Russia, India and China.
Coal Mining in Africa
South Africa produces over 250 million tonnes of coal every year. It is estimated that almost 75% of this coal is used domestically. Nearly 80% of the energy needs of South Africa are taken care of by coal and over 90% of the coal consumed on the entire African continent is produced in South Africa. The biggest coal deposits can be found in the Ecca deposits, a vein of the Karoo Supergroup in South Africa. The Ecca group covers approximately two thirds of the country and contains over a third of the coal reserves in the entire Southern Hemisphere. The most important coal fields in South Africa are:
– Highveld coal field
– Waterberg coal field
– Ermelo coal field
– Witbank coal field
– Ermelo coal field
– Klip River coal field
– Utrecht coal field
The five biggest coal mining companies are responsible for approximately 85% of all the coal production. These companies are; Anglo American PLC, Sasol Mining, Glencore Xstrata, Exxaro and South32’s South Africa Energy Coal.
Coal Mining Set to Expand in Africa
Botswana is the largest diamond miner in the world and is also known for its coal reserves. In recent years it has discovered that Botswana has over 200 billion tonnes of coal reserves and the development of the coal industry has become a major priority. Mozambique is also expected to experience a sharp increase in coal production towards 2020. It is estimated that its production could exceed 100 million tonnes in the period between 2015 and 2020.