The coal industry has to increase its investment in clean coal technologies and research programmes, Minerals and Energy Minister Susan Shabangusaid on Thursday.
Although the industry had an important role to play in the economy, it had to remain “current and relevant”, Shabangu told the SA Coal Export Conference in Cape Town.
“The industry needs to raise the level of investment in clean coal technologies research programmes. This is likely to present the country with opportunities to continue exploiting this vast resource without the risk of raising further the carbon intensity of its economy.”
Shabangu said while South Africa had made clear its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint through various programmes, including diversification of its energy mix, coal still had a vital role to play in the country’s energy generation.
She said advances in science were providing more accurate feedback on the environmental impact of fossil fuels.
This information was starting to guide international and local industries on how to “mitigate” the negative impacts resulting from exploitation of coal, which contributed 90% to South Africa’s electricity and 30% to its liquid fuel requirements.
The Council for Geosciences (CGS) was conducting research to quantify the extent of the acid mine drainage problem and was identifying possible rehabilitation measures.
This, she said, would help ameliorate the impact of acid mine drainage in the sector, which produced 316 million tons of coal and earned R37bn from export sales in 2010.
Acid mine draining is water that is rendered acidic from mining and which flows into rivers and dams.
A study by the CGS on the country’s coal resources and reserves had also been completed and a report was being finalised.
The results of the study, likely to be released in the first half of the year, would help inform the government’s long range planning on security of local supplies. The study could provide opportunities for the growth and expansion of the industry.