Becoming better acquainted with the scorching South African sun, some first-time visitors – such as this journalist – to junior coal mining company Canyon Coal’s Phalanndwa Colliery, in Delmas, Mpumalanga, left with a renewed interest in the coal industry after investment company Menar facilitated a mine site visit to Phalanndwa, this month.

While coal may have an uncertain fate, technologies exist that can reduce pollution associated with its use, which paints an optimistic future for the black gold’s continued use. However, it is curious that there are those who are adamant that the use of coal for power generation be stamped out for environmental reasons, especially while clean coal technologies exist.

Owing to mining being one of the most important sectors of the South African economy, which is heavily reliant on coal for power generation purposes, the visit was aimed at assisting mining journalists to better understand the importance of mining the mineral and expand their knowledge on the topic.

After arriving at the site at about 10.00 and a short safety briefing, visitors were kitted out in personal protective equipment – which included a hard hat, reflective jacket and a pair of safety boots – before trudging through warm weather, aptly looking like an aria of canaries.

Communicating through a two-way radio to visitors, Phalanndwa GM Alan Mabbett emphasised the future role coal has yet to play, besides its dirty reputation, as he accompanied about 20 visitors on a tour of the thermal coal mine, which was abuzz with activity.

Offering a wealth of information, the mining staff explained that the Phalanndwa Colliery comprises a crushing, screening and washing plant, along with a 28 t/h filter press system, and produces 120 000 t/m run-of-mine thermal coal, which has been operating since 2010.

Often the destination for locally mined coal, Phalanndwa does not have a contract in place to supply State-owned power utility Eskom, supplying 30% of its coal domestically to local sugar and paper mills, and exports the rest (70%) to countries such as Switzerland and Turkey.

Canyon Coal Subsidiary Canyon Mining Services undertakes all mining operations at Phalanndwa, Singani and the Hakhano collieries – which employ 634 people, including contractors – and use of traditional truck-and-shovel mining methods.

The Hakhano and Phalanndwa plants are operated by local mineral processing company Ingwenya, while coal is transported to the Richards Bay coal terminal, in KwaZulu-Natal, by local loading, hauling and stockpile management company Opsicol Mining Services.

Inspired by the electric atmosphere of the mining operation, standing on the view point of the mine – the tour group’s final destination for the day – the role of the journalist became evidently clear in the development and transformation of South Africa by ensuring society has access to all the facts to effect positive change.


By Simone Liedtke