Wescoal to break ground at new coal mine in February – CEO

The mine is expected to supply coal to Eskom’s Kusile power plant.
Wescoal is largely focussed on domestic supply to Eskom. Image: Vincent Mundy, Bloomberg

South Africa’s Wescoal expects to break ground in February at its greenfield Moabsvelden project, with the mine poised to supply Eskom’s Kusile power plant with three million tonnes of coal a year at its peak, the CEO said on Thursday.

Reginald Demana, group chief executive at Wescoal — which is largely focussed on domestic supply to state-owned power utility Eskom — was speaking at a southern Africa coal conference in Cape Town.

“It is a project that is one of the suppliers to Kusile (power station) over a ten-year period,” Demana said.

The new project is being developed amid a global pushback against the coal industry, as banks and other investors retreat from the commodity in the fight against climate change.

Around 50 protesters dumped lumps of black coal outside the conference venue on Thursday to highlight environmental and health problems associated with the coal mining industry.

Asked about finding financiers in an era where coal was increasingly being shunned, Demana said South African banks have not completely pulled back from coal.

“South African banks are still available and open to support coal companies. As far as I understand their position … they are not going to fund new power plants,” he said. “But as far as the coal mining business… they are still there to support (it)…”.

South Africa’s Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has pledged to keep coal in the country’s ‘energy mix’ — it has around 30 billion tonnes of coal reserves — even as it adopts more solar and wind projects to meet its climate commitments.

“Coal will remain a significant player for the foreseeable future,” Thabo Mokoena, director general at the Department of Mineral Resources, said in the panel discussion.

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