South Africa is the largest coal producer in Africa contributing 6% to global coal production with its vast coal reserve representing 11% of global supply. Due to size of the domestic coal reserves, South Africa makes extensive use of coal for electricity generation in its domestic economy as well as exporting approximately 28% of its coal production, mainly through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, making South Africa the fourth-largest coal exporting country in the world. South Africa is strategically located to distribute export grade coal to key markets in Europe and the Middle East.
By international standards, South Africa's coal deposits are relatively shallow with thick seams, which make them easier and, usually, cheaper to mine. In addition there has been a decline in high-quality reserves in recent years resulting in an increased political and industrial push for the application of technical advances to extend the life of major coal deposits.
White Energy has identified a unique opportunity in Africa to utilise the binderless coal briquetting technology to upgrade discarded thermal coal fines into compacted, transportable and useable briquettes of significantly higher value. In the context of the South African coal industry this represents a significant economic and environmental opportunity. It is estimated that approximately 60 million tonnes of discard coal fines are generated each year from mining operations in South Africa, as well discarded coal fine deposits of approximately 2 billon tonnes.
Coal fines are small coal particles (<500 micron) that are separated from coal during the coal beneficiation process. Coal fines, together with water, form part of the waste stream and are typically deposited in slurry ponds – regarded as an environmental cost.
Discussions with a number of major South African coal producers relating to the recovery and briquetting of their discarded fines are ongoing. The Company has tested in excess of 300 tonnes of discarded coal fine samples from these South African companies at the Cessnock Demonstration Plant for testing over the past year.