Coal Dirty to some, but not to all

Our March edition focuses on – dare I say it? – coal. The commodity which has suddenly become a dirty word and, according to investors, should not be mentioned in polite conversation.

Some of our readers may question our decision to dedicate an entire feature to a seemingly dying commodity, one that is frowned upon by so many.

Read  Issue 3 here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

Let me answer any burning questions you may have right now.

The reality is – and this has been said one thousand times before – developing countries, including South Africa, cannot shut down their reliance on coal for power generation overnight. We have for decades relied on the commodity to produce in excess of 90% of our energy needs and this simply cannot change in the blink of an eye. But we know this, we’ve heard it, we must accept it. Need I say more?

What is more important, in my opinion, is trying to unpack why the coal sector in particular has developed such a nasty reputation when other sectors of industry have the potential to contribute as much, if not more, to environmental degradation. That is, of course, the primary reason no one likes coal anymore. But why is no one giving our coal miners a chance or recognising the work already undertaken to ‘clean up’ their act?

You only have to read the pages of this issue to see how much work is being invested into research, development and technologies aimed at delivering a sector with a zero discharge output, one that is processing ultra-fine material that again reduces impact on the environment. Once implemented, I have no doubt the sector will be no less green than any others – because a cleaner coal fed into a power station produces far fewer pollutants into the air.

Need I remind everyone that renewable energy plants require different commodities to be mined and have substantially larger footprints than their coal-fired power station counterparts? What I’m trying to say is that no industry is perfect, so why must coal bear the brunt of the constant environment bashing?

Before I go on, and I could, let me send a personal shout out to Exxaro and Seriti who, in spite of everything, not only plan to continue investing in their coal businesses but also aren’t afraid to say so. South Africa must salute them for keeping a significant portion of our economy alive. The coal sector is after all responsible for substantial employment numbers. Yes, even now.

So, I have confidently vocalised my opinion and may receive some equally strong feedback – which I welcome, regardless of your stance. In fact, I encourage you to let me know how you feel, so please be in touch.