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Mining and EnvironmentNews

Countries reliant on coal maybe at risk

By Business Reporter – Wednesday 25 March 2020

HARARE – (Mining Index) – WHILE coal use looks certain to eventually wane globally, Mining Industry Association of South Africa (MIASA) last month expressed concern over gradual reduction of fossil fuels use to zero, which it says poses a threat to economies that are heavily reliant on coal, especially where no other alternatives exist.

Countries in the SADC region, Zimbabwe included rely on coal in sectors such as transport, heating and industry. Zimbabwe is facing electricity challenges and need to look for alternative power sources such solar, wind and harness the hydrogen power for every province as the country moves towards devolution – a hydrogen power plant for every province.

Having powered the world for centuries, the tables have turned and coal has been labelled as the single biggest contributor to global climate change. Fossil fuels have been blamed for leading the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change leaving the world faced with numerous climate induced disasters such as cylones and hurricanes.

Last year, United Nations (UN) secretary general Antonio Guterres warned countries to stop building new coal factories otherwise the world would face ‘total disaster’ due to global warming.

In November last year, African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina refused to fund a coal-fired power plant project in Kenya, adding that the regional bank had no plans to finance new coal plants in future.

In the past decade, AfDB has been a major funder of coal projects in Africa, lending over US$$1.65 billion to South African utility Eskom for its Medupi coal plant project.

MIASA acknowledged the current debate on coal, and specifically the International Council for Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Climate-related Financial Disclosures, a framework for the voluntary disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities.

In its deliberation of the coal debate, MIASA expressed concern that mining jurisdictions that are heavily reliant on coal for their economies may be at risk, especially where no other alternatives exist.

“MIASA supports the ‘Just Transition’ approach and resolved that, given the several dimensions of the coal transition, the matter should be deliberated and addressed by the various stakeholders across different levels – the mining industry as a whole, governments, investors and society at large. This transition was not about phasing out coal, but also looking for more climate-neutral coal technologies as well as diversifying the energy mix,” said MIASA on its website.

The argument by trade unions in South Africa is fear of loss of jobs in the coal industry. South Africa has a thriving coal industry, producing approximately 255 million tonnes of coal annually, with almost three quarters of the coal, which makes 77 percent of South Africa’s energy needs are consumed domestically, while an estimate 92 percent of coal consumed on the African continent is produced in SA.

While some countries are closing fossil-fuel power plants, others are upping the contribution of coal to their power sectors as they continue to build and finance new coal-fired power stations.

Coal is seen as an affordable and abundant resource in Asian countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries with vast coal reserves  to which both local and foreign investors are jostling to exploit.

While China accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal consumption, a number of Chinese miners have been noted investing in coal operations in Hwange.

Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) was formed to effect the ban on coal. As of 10 December 2019, a total of 97 members comprising 33 national governments, 27 sub-national governments, and 37 businesses or organisations had affiliated with PPCA, with each member making a declaration to advance the transition away from unabated coal power generation to clean energy.

As of last year, Senegal, Israel, Angola and Ethiopia were the only African countries that had affiliated with PPCA.

Zimbabwe has not yet said a position regarding global calls to ban use of coal. The country has four coal power stations namely Hwange, Munyati, Bulawayo and Harare power stations.

National Governments that are members include Canada, United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. ENDS// 

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