- Eswatini has 143 million tons of mineable coal deposits, which are currently unexplored
- The mineable but unexplored coal deposits can be mined over a period of 205 years combined
Mbabane: With a high youth unemployment rate of 44.15 per cent and a national unemployment rate of 22.5 per cent, government is denying over 2 800 direct jobs which could subsequently benefit over 19 700 emaSwati.
As defined by the International Labour Organization, “unemployed workers” are those who are currently not working but are willing and able to work for pay, currently available to work, and have actively searched for work.
Government will stand accused for denying emaSwati direct and gainful employment through its dismal failure to give licences to some investors interested to inject money for coal exploration. Recent quarterly reports released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy shows that there are investors who are applying for mining licences.
When using the country’s dependency ratio of 1:7, the non-provision of the 2 800 jobs is further denying about 19 000 emaSwati to have food on the table.
According to a report compiled by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy’s Geological Survey and Mines Department, Eswatini has 143 million tons of mineable coal deposits, which are currently unexplored. Areas with coal deposits in the country are Mhlume (Area 1, Area 2-Mpaka, Area 3 –Sumcor), Maloma and Lubhuku.
According to the report, the mineable but unexplored coal deposits can be mined over a period of 205 years combined. Independent News has established that there are investors who are busy on the ground trying to get a mining licence.
Paris climate agreement
The delay in exploration of coal is slowly but surely rendering the valuable stones worthless. With the United Nations Climate Action pushing for countries to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2020 and reach the ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2050. Under the Paris climate agreement, countries are expected to commit by 2020 to more aggressive climate plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), than those they set in 2015 when the agreement was signed.
The push by the UN for carbon neutrality will definitely renders the unexplored coal a worthless mineral more so because the price will drastically fall as markets would no longer be interested to buy. According to the Geological Survey and Mines Department report, Eswatini’s washed coal from Mpaka Mine, which is found within the Area 2 coal deposit was successfully sold to Kenya where it was used for cement manufacturing. Some coal consignments from Mpaka Mine were sent to the Asian markets (Japan, South Korea, etc.) where it was used for manufacturing smokeless briquettes for domestic heating and cooking. The bulk of the coal could be used for electricity power generation.
However, with the delay in mining, the country could find itself sitting with billions of Emalangeni worth of worthless coal as the available markets have already committed to the reductions of gas emissions and the UN is relentlessly mounting pressure on countries neglecting their emissions target. During the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, countries that are building or financing new fossil fuel power plants or are neglecting their emissions commitments were denied an opportunity to speak. The US, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Japan are among the countries excluded from speaking.
Beside the fact that the coal international market is set to shrink because the UN is tightening the screws on emissions, Eswatini might find itself with another problem of abandoning its plans of building the proposed thermal power plant. Other than the pressure being applied by the UN, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has also mushroomed and dropped a bombshell that might leave government with an egg on her face.
The regional lender’s president Akinwumi Adesina this week unveiled ambitious plans to scrap coal power stations across the continent and switch to renewable energy.
Speaking during the United Nations climate talks on Monday, Adesina outlined efforts to shutter coal-fired power plants and build the “largest solar zone in the world” in the arid Sahel belt.
“Coal is the past, and renewable energy is the future. For us at the African Development Bank, we’re getting out of coal,” Adesina told delegates to the Climate Action Summit in Manhattan.
He said the bank’s E7 billion (US$500 million) green baseload scheme will be rolled out in 2020 and is set to yield E98 billion (US$5 billion) of investment that will help African countries transition from coal and fossil fuel to renewable energy, said Adesina.
Adesina also talked about plans for $20-billion of investments in solar and clean energy that would provide the region’s 250 million people with 10 000 MW of electricity.
“There’s a reason God gave Africa sunlight,” said Adesina.
Heads of state, princes and government ministers from around the world attended the UN’s climate summit, as they faced mounting pressure to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions and slow the global rise in temperatures.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres also took a swipe at the “dying fossil fuel industry” and said it was still not too late to keep the global rise in temperatures below the benchmark figure of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
“But it will require fundamental transformations in all aspects of society – how we grow food, use land, fuel our transport and power our economies,” said Guterres.
“We need to link climate change to a new model of development – fair globalisation – with less suffering, more justice, and harmony between people and the planet.”
The UN says mankind must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to about 1.5 °C above pre-industrial temperatures to stave off the worst-case predictions of scientists.
The meeting was part of the run-up to the international climate talks in 2020, which is the next deadline for countries to make significant emissions reduction pledges under the 2015 global warming deal.
Table 1 Coal areas and reserves in million tonnes
|Area||Mineable (Million tons)||Estimated annual production||Life of mine||Estimated employment|
|Area2(Mpaka Mine)||41.2||500 000||82||600|
|Area3 (Sumcor)||20.6||500 000||41||450|
|Total||143.5||2 775 000||2 815|