Assessing coal mine closures and mining community profiles for the ‘just transition’ in South Africa

Type Journal Article - Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Title Assessing coal mine closures and mining community profiles for the ‘just transition’ in South Africa
Volume 123
Issue 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2023
Page numbers 329-342
Growing global concern over the impacts of climate change, attributable largely to fossil fuel energy sources, has led to the widely shared goal for a ‘just transition’ to cleaner energy and reduced dependence on carbon-based fuels. As the world’s 14th biggest CO2 emitter and being particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, South Africa must embark on a just transition pathway. This paper reviews expected coal mine closures and associated community vulnerabilities and local governance challenges in South Africa. Decommissioning schedules for all coal-fired power stations and operating coal mines are plotted, and 69 mining host communities and 21 municipalities are mapped, classified, and described. Community socio-economic profiles
are measured using a set of SDG indicators and census data and municipalities assessed through financial audits. Our research shows that five coal-fired power plants (8.9 GW) and 15 coal mines (29.5 Mt/a) will probably close by 2030, and a further four plants (14 GW) and 23 mines (106 Mt/a) by 2040. Thus, the shift to cleaner energy will likely occur without the premature closures
implied by the just transition. The impact of mine closure on the 2.5 million residents of host communities will be significant, particularly as levels of income, employment, and education are already very low and many municipalities are in financial distress. The South African approach to the just transition needs to take local realities into account and the narrative must support an
effective transition that does not undermine energy security and economic growth.

Related studies