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Seriti wins plaudits for decarbonising its coal mines while keeping coal lights on

Seriti CEO Mike Teke.

Seriti CEO Mike Teke.

Photo by Creamer Media

8th February 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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CAPE TOWN (miningweekly.com) – The 91% black-owned and -controlled Seriti Resources was seen at the Investing in African Mining Indaba as setting a compelling example by generating wind energy to decarbonise its coal mining operations while at the same time going full tilt in supplying coal to Eskom and helping to eliminate South Africa’s loadshedding curse.

Seriti Resources CEO Mike Teke had many in the audience nodding in approval as he outlined how his group, through Seriti Green, is setting out to self-generate 900 MW of renewable energy as quickly as possible, while at the same time producing as much thermal coal as possible to keep Eskom's coal-fired power stations burning and South Africa’s lights on.

Interestingly, the proposed Seriti Green wind farm is expected to have an energy availability factor (EAF) of 40% compared with the current 17% to 19% EAF of its badly performing coal-fired neighbour, Eskom’s troubled Tutuka power station.

Through its climate-change-mitigating Seriti Green, Seriti is developing a wind energy farm  in Mpumalanga’s Morgenzon, Bethel and Standerton areas, heartlands of South Africa's electricity generation.

The project, which includes a large 800 MWh of battery storage, forms part of an agreement that will see clean power wheeled through the national electricity grid to meet Seriti’s carbon neutrality aspirations.

Moreover, the storage technology may involve vanadium rather than lithium, which would be another huge boost for the South African economy, where vanadium storage appraisal is at an advanced stage.

If the admirable example that Seriti is setting were to be pursued by all coal mining companies, South Africa’s loadshedding would be considerably abated and coal mines admirably decarbonised – the best of every world.

Long-duration battery capacity that vanadium can provide supports the integration of renewable energy into electricity grids and is seen by some as providing a generational opportunity that South Africa, which has a significant vanadium endowment, should not miss.

Meanwhile, Seriti  continues to laudably operate three opencast and underground thermal coal mines – New Vaal, New Denmark and Kriel – which supply Eskom’s Lethabo, Tutuka and Kriel power stations, and its New Largo mine is under development to meet the needs of the new adjacent Kusile power station.

In addition, Khutala, Klipspruit, Pegasus and Middelburg Mines Services coal operations were brought into the fold through the acquisition of South32’s coal assets, which provide coal to Eskom’s Kendal and Duhva power stations, as well as the export market through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT).

When the issue of coal miners resisting necessary change arose during the Indaba panel discussion moderated by McCloskey executive director James Stevenson, Teke said: “Let’s be clear. Seriti Resources is not resisting any change.”

Included in the panel with Teke were World Coal Association CEO Michelle Manook, Thungela CEO July Ndlovu, and Menar chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela.

“When it comes to climate change, we are not climate denialists – the science is there, we read all the time about what climate change is causing,” Teke added during the discussion covered by Mining Weekly.

But at the same time,  it was absolutely necessary, he added, to keep the company’s coal mines going aggressively while meeting carbon neutrality, zero emission and decarbonising obligations.

Teke’s exemplary and commendable dual approach to South Africa’s climate change and electricity changes are a reflection of the illustrious career that he has had in South Africa, where he has taken up leadership positions at some of the biggest mining houses and institutions, including serving as chairperson of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal for several years.

During the indaba panel discussion he again displayed great willingness to become fully involved in assisting the government to solve the coal logistics problem facing South Africa’s coal exporters.

“We must come to terms with the fact that we need to get involved,” said Teke, recalling the help coal mining companies have already provided to increase security along the coal line to the RBCT.

“We decided, as coal mining companies, that we will assist and put our best foot forward and make sure that we reduce the crime that we’ve seen,” said Teke, whose Seriti, along with other coal mining companies, has also assisted with railing stock, skills and maintenance provision, as well as trying to resolve the challenge that relates to locomotive from China.

“The private sector cannot stand by and watch,” said Teke, with reference to the rail logistics problems being suffered by not only coal exporters, but also iron-ore, chrome and manganese producers.

He also drew attention to the devastating repercussions should the logistics problem extend deeper into the agriculture and food sectors.

“As the private sector, we need to start now in creating something similar to what the Minerals Council has done at Transnet, to come up with teams and to ask how can we work together to resolve the challenges,” added Teke.

ABATEMENT SOLUTIONS FOR COAL

Manook spoke of the world being on a trajectory to move away from unabated coal.

“There’s so much innovation in coal that goes quite beyond coal to power. But if we could just start with power, there are abatement solutions today for coal power and some of the most efficient fleets in the world are run by Japan, and that needs to be back on the table as one of those clean solutions,” said Manook.

“Again, the International Panel on Climate Change has told us we will not reach our targets to net zero without carbon capture and storage (CCS). That’s the reality. There’s technical feasibility in CCS, but it must be deployed at scale, it must be embraced in both policy and investment solutions as something that is meaningful in the fight against climate change. These are really important things for coal.

“I’m really grateful to members that I have today, because those members see the opportunity for coal not just in terms of coal power, but coal beyond that, such as coal to hydrogen, coal to chemicals, coal waste and how we can deal with that.

“All of these opportunities exist in coal and they support the Just Energy Transition, because there are communities around the world who are both directly and indirectly supported by coal mining.

“It’s so important for not just my producers, but my entire coal value chain, to consider that opportunity and responsibility and in that, we must embrace technology and political and investment policy,” said Manook.

Ndlovu drew attention to commercial realities and 22% the developed countries being responsible for 80% of carbon dioxide emissions and questioned the moral rectitude of poor nations having to pay for climate change abatement.

“This is not because we in the developing nations are resistant to change but we are dealing with a very big conundrum,” said Ndlovu.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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