South Africa produces additional of 255 million tons of coal and consumes almost three-quarters of that domestically. South Africa is one of the seven largest coal-producing and one of the top five coal-exporting countries in the world. In 2014, South Africa produced about $11bn worth of coal, $8bn worth of platinum group metals and $6bn each of gold and iron ore.  Coal was king by a mile.

Although our coal is mentioned a fair amount by the South African press – it takes a huge backseat to it's largest customer – Eskom – who receives much more attention and assistance than SA’s coal industry. Yet coal is what fuelled SA’s giant industrial companies, such as Eskom, Sasol, Arcelor Mittal SA (previously Iscor) and of course all of our huge gold and platinum industries.

None of these companies, let alone industries, could have developed without an abundance of economical and reliable electricity. Alan Mabbett General Manager of Canyon Coal said: “ There is still life in the coal industry, though many countries are changing to renewable energy, there are many countries in Europe that use coal like most African countries”.



As a group of journalists and student journalists, we visited Canyon Coal’s Phalanndwa Colliery which is located 10 km east of Delmas, in Mpumalanga. This mine started mining in October 2010 and was fully operational, inclusive of its wash plant, in 2013.

Using Canyon’s own mining equipment, the company extracts 120 000 t of run-of-mine (ROM) coal a month of No 2 upper, main and lower seams, with a ROM top size of 500 mm. Canyon, which has also completed drilling, has submitted a mining right application to the Department of Mineral Resources for an extension to the project.

Canyon Coal has a handful of coal mining projects that are in progress, this shows confidence on the future of coal mining in South Africa. Mabbett addressed journalists at the Canyon coal Phalanndwa mine site, in his presentation; he spoke about the future of coal mine in South Africa and the operations of Canyon Coal in Mpumalanga. 

“Canyon Coal takes pride in employing people around the community of Delmas, where 85% of Canyon Coal employees are the people from around the area of Delmas,” Mabbett said. Canyon Coal has a variety of programs that are designed to serve the communities where they operate, in Delmas they have erected a footbridge, to assist both the school children and other pedestrians crossing the river located opposite the community homesteads.

The Delmas Pedestrian Bridge project includes local community participation and has been handed over to the community for use. One other big initiatives Canyon Coal introduced was to assist the Bonginhlanhla Stimulation Centre for disabled children. Funding from Canyon Coal has allowed the procuring of much-needed support and stimulation items.

By Nyiko Mahundla