Witbank, South Africa: open pit coal mining and equipment

Putting Coal Into the African Perspective

by PD Lawton      22 May 2022

Since the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, plans have been periodically put forward to increase South Africa`s nuclear output. At present Africa`s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, supplies electricity to Cape Town, a city of just under 5 million residents. Cape Town`s economy accounts for 72% of the Western Province`s economic activity (2016 figures) with manufacturing being the second largest contributor after finance and business. Because of manufacturing, the rate of unemployment is the lowest for any of South Africa`s capital cities. Manufacturing provides productive employment. Manufacturing requires electricity.

More than 2 decades ago, plans were once more put forward to expand the nuclear energy industry. At the time, a national debate on the subject was dominated, as it still is, by environmentalists and strongly anti-nuclear leading South African economists such as Grové Steyn and Patrick Bond.

Patrick Bond, currently economics professor at the University of the Western Cape is a devotee of Global Warming (now re-named as Climate Change because temperatures and sea levels are not rising in accordance with Al Gore`s convenient lies and despite his level of education, Bond is happy to call CO2 a pollutant.

Bond likes slogans such as this: Leave the oil in the soil, leave the coal in the hole, leave the tar in the sand. He thinks statements like that “epitomize a clear, well thought out political strategy.”

 Unbelievably, Grové Steyn, Meridian Economics, and member of Eskom`s Sustainability Task Team, said in a paper entitled `The Future of Nuclear Energy in South Africa: The challenges of decision making under uncertainty` that the future is uncertain and that therefore we must not plan for it !

Unfortunately, due to pressure from the green lobby, plans for expansion were dropped.

Which left 80% of South Africa`s energy coming from coal.

Let us put that into perspective. Sub Saharan Africa uses roughly the same amount of electricity as one relatively small country in Europe, Spain.

50% of that electricity is produced in South Africa.

80% of which is from coal.

600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity whatsoever.

900 million households have no alternative to wood or manure for cooking which is labour intensive, time consuming, has a negative effect on respiratory health and causes massive deforestation as well as vast amounts of CO2.

In fact you can honestly say that by building coal powered stations in southern Africa, you can reduce CO2 emissions!

Renewable energy has its place but not as the main energy source of any industrialized economy.  It is through manufacturing goods, be it value addition in agriculture, high tech components, tractors, machine tools, household goods or even bread that sub-Saharan African economies will reduce poverty by supplying productive employment and enabling economic growth .

Not all African countries have coal, in fact the majority do not. South Africa and Mozambique have abundant reserves followed by Botswana and Zimbabwe. South Africa produces 254,411 metric tons and Mozambique 13,893 metric tons as of 2019.


Solar and wind can, if intermittently, supply both urban and rural communities, can and do contribute to the national grid however renewables need coal or nuclear as baseload ( minimum constant 24/7) as backup. Ironically wind turbines and solar panels can only be  manufactured using non-renewable energy sources.

In Western Europe hydro power makes sense. The European climate is not prone to droughts and high levels of evaporation due to extreme heat. Most hydro dams, like those in Scandinavia, are situated in valleys which provide a narrow expanse and deep water level as oppose to a broad expanse and shallow water level which in general is the situation for hydro dams in sub Saharan Africa due to the geography. Shallow dams in hot climates lose a large percentage to evaporation.

Western European countries are geographically very small. Most countries in Western Europe are relatively minute compared to African countries. This fact remains neglected by European foreign policy makers who are not well educated in the geography of Africa and who have the arrogance to think they know better.

Germany which constantly imposes its anti nuclear and anti fossil fuel policies on Africa, is considered large by European standards.  Germany is the 5th largest county in Western Europe. Norway and Sweden are the 3rd and 4th largest. However, most of Norway and much of Sweden is either uninhabited or uninhabitable.


Germany is 357,168 sq km.

Spreading in a band across the heart of South Africa is a semi-desert region called the Karoo or Great Karoo. It is 400 000 square kilometres, making it  bigger than Germany. It is a much loved and a very beautiful part of South Africa but is of no great significance sizewise as South Africa itself, is comprised of 9 vast provinces. It has a coastline along both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans  stretching more than 2,850 kilometres.

The total land area of South Africa is 1,220,813 km2.

From Cape Town in the west to the eastern port city of  Durban, is 1, 272km as the crow flies and by road, 1,636km.

The distance from Pretoria to Cape Town is the same as that from Rome to London.

The capital of the  Democratic Republic  Congo, Africa`s largest sub Saharan country,  is Kinshasa, which is located in the west. Bukavu is the provincial capital of South Kivu which is in the east. The distance between the 2 cities of Kinshasa and Bukavu is 2,494km which is slightly less than the distance between London and Moscow.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is 2,344,858 km2.

The Mercator Projection used as a standard in world maps is Eurocentric. The distortion makes North America and Europe appear much larger than they in fact are.

Why does size matter in relation to electricity?

A national energy grid for the average African country has no resemblance in requirement of scale to a country in Western Europe. Transmission distances in Africa are far, far greater than in Western Europe.

Due to the resistance properties of the metal comprising the power lines, the further that electricity has to travel the less current there is available at the destination. Therefore the very long distance power lines dissipate a significant amount of the available power.

The length of transmission cables, energy infrastructure, needed for Africa are uniquely daunting. The cost of transportation of fuel, be that coal or diesel, is far greater.

What are the real costs of a hydro dam thousands of kilometers from an urban area?

In addition: Germany, Western Europe`s most populous country has 83 million people.

Europe’s population growth rate is 0.06%, the lowest of all the world. Europe (including Russia)has  11% of the world’s population. Europe covers about 2% of the whole surface of Earth and 6.8% of the land area with Russia comprising 39% of that total land area.

Spain has a population of 47 million.

South Africa ( 2011 census)has 60.1 million people with an estimated 5 million unregistered additional people.

There are 1.4 billion people in Africa which is 16.72% of the total world population.

And now consider how much electricity is consumed by people in Africa.


France uses 6,940kWh per capita using uranium from Niger which uses 51kWh per capita.(Data from 2014)

 Germany uses 7,035kWh.

South Africa uses 4,198kWh.

The DRC uses 109kWh per capita.


Energy consumption in South Africa is the highest for the continent. That is why millions of Africans travel to South Africa in search of employment and business opportunities. The higher the energy consumption, the higher the living standards, the heathier the economy.

Electricity means life is better. And 80% of that better life in South Africa is from coal.

So when Europeans impose green energy policies on Africa, they do it with total ignorance of the Sleeping Giant. And by their total ignorance of condeming coal and nuclear energy, they condemn 1,4 billion people to a future of poverty when the majority of those 1,4 billion people do not use so much as one light bulb`s worth of electricity .

A kettle boiled twice a day by a family in Britain uses 5x as much electricity as a person in Mali uses per year

An Ethiopian takes 87x longer to consume 150kW hours of electricity than someone in the United Kingdom

A Tanzanian takes 8 years to consume as much electricity as an American consumes in 1 month

A freezer in the United States consumes 10x more electricty than a Liberian uses in 1 year.

Every human being wants to breathe clean air and drink pure water. Most human beings want to protect the natural kingdom which is out God given role. No one wants to live in creativity-crippling, futureless poverty. Only creative human innovation can bring solutions.

Nuclear power technology fulfills all the requirements of clean energy. And until nuclear energy can power African cities and industries, let fossil fuels and hydro and gas and solar and wind and whatever  reduce Sub Saharan Africa`s energy deficit. Africans are tired of living in the dark and they are tired of Eurocentric energy policies.

South Africa is presently in a dire economic situation due to the lack of investment in the physical economy. If the situation in South Africa continues as it is, by 2030, the existing manufacturing/industrial plants will be faced with closure due to insufficient electricity. At present, there is no incentive to invest in new manufacturing plants because there is not enough power.

Energy poverty sustains poverty because electricity is the foundation of all economic development. It is high time that the West stopped with its energy imperialism.

Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s vice-president recently stated :

Curbing natural gas investments in Africa will do little to limit carbon emissions globally but much to hurt the continent’s economic prospects. Right now, Africa is starved for energy: excluding South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa’s one billion people have the power generation capacity of just 81 gigawatts—far less than the 108-gigawatt capacity of the United Kingdom. Moreover, those one billion people have contributed less than one percent to global cumulative carbon emissions.”

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Tom Halla
July 5, 2022 2:20 pm

Keeping people in mud huts is their goal.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Tom Halla
July 5, 2022 4:39 pm

Certainly they don’t care a whit whether Africans live or die. Our resident troll griff we tell you that all they need is a solar lantern. In the minds of our elites, these “noble savages” live as they think we all should live (themselves excluded of course). Giving them cheap abundant energy would be like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 6, 2022 2:00 am

I’m telling you again that in their continued gridless state, a solar lantern makes a real difference compared to the kerosene lamps they used before…

Until they get renewable electricity locally provided.

Or they could sit in the dark till a fossil fuel grid arrives… which would be never

Bill Toland
Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 2:14 am

Griff, Africa is planning to build 1250 coal and gas power stations in the next decade alone. Why are you always so negative on Africa? I remember people like you being negative on Asia’s economic prospects 50 years ago.


Climate change: Africa’s green energy transition ‘unlikely’ this decade – BBC News

Reply to  Bill Toland
July 6, 2022 11:44 am

“Africans” or Chinese in Africa are building plants and maintaining them?

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 3:50 am

whole worldbank n the rest refuse funding , yeah it would be never
theyll be making good money off gas n coal to EUidiots so maybe things might change now. and BRICSA might just do that for them

Dave Andrews
Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 9:06 am

griff, for decades Western Governments, Development Agencies and Financial Institutions along with Western Environmental and other NGOs have withdrawn from virtually all large scale infrastructure and energy developments in Africa citing, among other things, ‘climate change’ China has in many places stepped into the breach but it cannot match the financial muscle of the West.

Africa also, of course has its share of corrupt leadership but the development of the Continent could have been quite different if the West had not opted for the course it chose.

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 5:01 pm

So you want them to have light at night to sit around with no job anyhow or are you saying they should then start subsistence farming?

You do understand you are condemning them to always be a 3rd world or is that your intention?

john harmsworth
Reply to  griff
July 7, 2022 12:11 pm

Africans know your ideas are idiotic, Griff. Just like all of us here do. You may be a small speed bump in the West to common sense improvement in the human condition. In areas of the world where people are forced to properly evaluate options, you don’t rate a mention. Keep spinnin’ your wheels there, bud. Good for a laugh!

Reply to  griff
July 8, 2022 9:08 am

China will prove you wrong again in Africa in addition to all the other places.

Steve Case
Reply to  Tom Halla
July 5, 2022 6:47 pm

Keeping people in mud huts is their goal.

As was pointed out the other day on WUWT:

There is no way that leftist “leaders” don’t know exactly what dire effects their anti-fuel actions are having on ordinary citizens’ standards of living.

Ergo, it has to be deliberate.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 6, 2022 1:59 am

But why in the 1970s when fossil fuel was the undoubted top power solution did they not then get electricity and development?

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 11:45 am

No one to do it for them

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 4:54 pm

Corruption and stupidity … the usual suspects in 3rd world nations 🙂

john harmsworth
Reply to  griff
July 7, 2022 12:14 pm

Capitalism, Griff. They didn’t have that either. They spent their money sending their best and brightest to Western universities to learn to be good Socialists. It was the ones who stayed behind and started small businesses who gradually dragged it up onto its feet. Those social science degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on in the real world.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Tom Halla
July 6, 2022 11:14 am

Effectively, that’s the result.

On a lighter note, the huts I saw in Venda Land were made of herbivore dung. Better than mud and readily takes some added color for decor. Not at all bad for a primitive hut. But, no electricity and endemic malaria.

July 5, 2022 2:22 pm

We should start fracking in the Karoo and build power plants running on gas.

July 5, 2022 2:23 pm

People like Patrick Bond can say whatever they want, but short of a massive technological breakthrough, fossil fuels are here to stay for a long time. It is simply economically impossible to reduce them by any significant amount.

Reply to  Stevek
July 6, 2022 2:01 am

Except that they already are decreasing by significant amounts, especially in electricity generation

Dave Andrews
Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 9:12 am

BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2022

“Fossil fuels = 82% of primary energy use”

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 5:04 pm

ROFL not sure if replacing coal with gas decreases fossil fuel

Rud Istvan
July 5, 2022 3:06 pm

I disagree with parts of this analysis.

I don’t think 3rd Gen nuclear is a viable solution—for Africa or anywhere. Look at the huge cost overruns and near decade behind schedule of Voglte 3&4 in the US. Now imagine trying that in Africa.

The better current answer everywhere is supercritical coal or CCGT. China can quickly and cheaply build SCC, as they are for themselves. GE and Siemens can supply eveN quicker and cheaper CCGT where natgas is available. Both have plant lives in excess of 40 years.

During that 40 years, finish the detailed engineering on various Gen 4 nuclear fission concepts, build a couple of the best types at least at pilot scale and operate them for a decade to work out any kinks. THEN go nuclear with the best gen4 concept(s) as the new fossil fueled plants reach end of life. Everywhere, not just Africa.

Africa’s problems are much deeper and broader than just electricity. Until those are also solved, there probably won’t be much progress on electricity. These well off South African professors should worry about those, not bogus climate change.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 5, 2022 6:45 pm

I don’t understand the comment about nuclear. China, South Korea, and Russia are competing to build nuclear power plants around the world. China has completed two 1GW nuclear power plants in Pakistan at a cost of roughly $5 billion each. These plants were built on time and are now connected to the national grid. South Korea is building 4 nuclear 1.4GW units in Dubai, UAE at a slightly higher cost each. There is no reason these plants could not be built in Africa if development banks were willing to finance construction.

Reply to  Mohatdebos
July 5, 2022 7:45 pm

Exactly. The only thing making nuclear expensive is Government.

Reply to  Mohatdebos
July 5, 2022 7:46 pm

Small Modular Reactors, with the core, and everything else produced on a production line and small enough to transport by train and ship could provide greater flexibility and consistency and fill the needs quickly. EX: 10 or 12 NuScale reactors instead of one large site built reactor.

Site work simultaneous to factory production reduces overall time of construction.

Reply to  Drake
July 6, 2022 2:03 am

And indeed Rolls Royce is building them… 5 by the mid 2030s to generate 2.5 GW of power.

Not a revolution, exactly…

Paul C
Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 11:43 am

And once the production line is up and running, that five could rapidly become 500.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 5, 2022 7:56 pm

“During that 40 years, finish the detailed engineering on various Gen 4 nuclear fission concepts, build a couple of the best types at least at pilot scale”

I’ve been meaning to send you stuff on the Candu reactors. They seem to be the world’s best kept secret!

• they run on non-upgraded Uranium oxide
• they are modular and built (for $CDN400million 10yrs ago).
• the world’s largest plant (until a couple years ago) was the Bruce Point plant in Ontario made up of 7 modules.
• they run basically trouble-free – a multiple module plant at Pickering, Ontario is essentially in a suburb of Toronto.
• they have a design life of 27yrs and undergo a standard upgrade for a total of 40yrs life.
• the latest upgrades have costs of 3 cents a kWh!
• Oh, and they do not need to be shut down for refueling (completely novel configuration).

Their is a lot of chauvinism in the nuclear market so the big boys didn’t buy one but Korea, China, Argentina and a few others are happy with these beautiful plants. Hopefully Gen 4 will adopt the non-shutdown refueling at least!

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 5, 2022 7:59 pm

CANDU would be ideal for Africa!

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 5, 2022 8:19 pm


Nuclear and gas are our super powers

We just need less retarded politicians

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
July 5, 2022 11:45 pm

They are stupid, but fortunately not brave. The renewable fantasy is ending. They say using fossil fuels is temporary, but fear of pitchforks and torches as the scam runs down can be seen in their eyes. If they can avoid economic collapse and widespread famine. They’ll thankfully abandon their foolish fantasies. They are lucky to have a scapegoat in the war.

July 5, 2022 3:32 pm

The future is uncertain, therefore we should make no plans.

That has got to be one of the dumbest statements I have ever read.

Reply to  MarkW
July 6, 2022 3:08 am

But…but…but…Surely the one certain part of the future is that the climate will get hotter because of CO2.

(Do I really need a /sarc tag?)

john harmsworth
Reply to  MarkW
July 7, 2022 12:19 pm

I can go along with, “Keep your options open”. Also, in recent times, “don’t trust the science”. Check out the Replication Crisis” before proceeding on the basis of any stated science

July 5, 2022 3:46 pm
Curious George
Reply to  observa
July 5, 2022 4:10 pm

I envy your clarity, but I don’t share it. You must have strong feelings about what the climate should be. What do you contribute besides feelings?

Pete Bonk
Reply to  Curious George
July 5, 2022 5:13 pm

I think observa left off the ”/sarc” tag…

Reply to  observa
July 5, 2022 4:13 pm

Well they are getting cheaper all the time, apparently.

Old Man Winter
July 5, 2022 4:02 pm

“It is high time that the West stopped with its energy imperialism”

We need to stop those in the West doing that to us first otherwise there will be no West!

Reply to  Old Man Winter
July 5, 2022 4:15 pm

That’s the plan.

Reply to  Old Man Winter
July 6, 2022 12:01 pm

That’s anti-Semitic

Michael in Dublin
July 5, 2022 4:39 pm

There are economical ways to use wood for heating/cooking in Africa far more efficiently. This means less wood and less smoke, less time collecting and less trees destroyed. Of course this does not fit in with the views of Western activists and politicians.

Steve Browne
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
July 8, 2022 5:54 am

‘Less wood’ still means deforesting Africa. You cannot grow a tree as fast as you can burn one.

July 5, 2022 5:03 pm

Thorium Liquid Salts Cooled Reactors https://www.thorpower.com https://www.copenhagenatomics.com

Rich Lambert
July 5, 2022 5:28 pm

It is decades past due that Africa be freed from the slavery of energy poverty. It should begin with the building of many coal and gas fired power plants.

July 5, 2022 5:49 pm

They wouldn’t have to build 1950’s coal fired plants. 2022 “clean coal” would do. 2019 Africa, 16.4 billion short tons of coal reserves. They could move with the advancing technology rather than forcing the sociopolitical um… science. Just an idea.

July 5, 2022 6:12 pm

There is absolutely no reason for any African country to pay any attention to the green devils in the west. Tell them to go to hell.

Reply to  Bob
July 6, 2022 2:04 am


check out how Kenya has provide grid access for its entire population

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 5:14 pm

Yeah they are a shinning light


The list of frustrations with KPLC is long – including constant outages, foot-dragging in restoring power, inflated electricity bills and taking ages to connect potential clients. It’s no surprise it has attracted monikers such as “Kenya Paraffin and Candles Limited”.

That is Griffs idea of a perfect grid 🙂

July 5, 2022 6:15 pm

African politicians have a bad habit of stealing any funds raised for a new power station. Never forget the human factor.

Steve Case
July 5, 2022 6:45 pm

In fact you can honestly say that by building coal powered stations in southern Africa, you can reduce CO2 emissions!

Kissing up to the other side of the argument is not a winning policy.

Gary Pearse
July 5, 2022 7:23 pm

And there is no sign of crisis global warming to be seen. An 18.5year “Pause” in warming, following the end of of the last century was interrupted by a naturally occurring el Niño in 2015 and it has been cooling again since!

This means despite a 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 there is essentially no significant warming in the new millennium. Moreover, most records for temperatures and heat waves occurred in the 1930s – 1940s which have been egregiously fiddled to erase this fact. This is true globally. Here You can see Capetown’s long term recorded temperatures which closely match in time and pattern those of the United States and what they became under the fiddler’s- essentially Jim Hansen’s climate science legacy. BTW such repeated patterns in Canada, Europe, South Africa, Paraguay, Ecuador, and elsewhere are self-corroboratory.

Capetown before and after:

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comment image?w=791&h=464

Paul Homewood’s blog Not a lot of people know looked at other long records in South America and saw the same patterns of adjustment cutting off more than half a degree C from summer highs etc. but I note the images have been ‘broken’ how eas that done?

July 6, 2022 1:58 am

‘now re-named as Climate Change because temperatures and sea levels are not rising in accordance with Al Gore`s convenient lies’

I’d like to remind everyone that the rebrand to ‘climate Change’ was in fact by Us Republican Lutz, as the original term was considered too alarming.

The rest of this article is just as cavalier with the facts…

Why didn’t Africa get coal or gas in the 50 years after WW2 before there was any debate on climate change?

What are the many states without in country coal or gas reserves supposed to do: how will they pay for those to be shipped in (or pat for the power coming in on the unbuilt grid).

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 8:29 am

Oh look! Griff just admitted there’s a “debate” on ‘climate change.”

Baby steps.

Rich Davis
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
July 6, 2022 3:36 pm

Ha ha. What the griffter meant was that there was a debate for a few minutes in 1989, and then The Science ™ was settled.

Reply to  griff
July 6, 2022 11:39 am


john harmsworth
Reply to  griff
July 7, 2022 12:37 pm

Where do you live, Griff? What things don’t you have “in country”? How do you get them?

July 6, 2022 3:49 am

coal would be so much safer as would gas. maybe they should do the western thing and just print to build what they need?

Nefty Ivan
July 6, 2022 5:39 am

From the article: “900 million households have no alternative to wood or manure for cooking which is labour intensive, time-consuming, has a negative effect on respiratory health and causes massive deforestation as well as vast amounts of CO2.”

So, the young mother in such situations — in her teens and 20’s — daily labors for hours. breathing in the burnt dung smoke; akin to smoking a few PACKS A DAY; not to mention her babies being held nearby, being subjected to the same lung-destructive and generally unhealthy environment.

So, by the time she is 40, she looks and feels like she is 70, with minimized hopes, for both her and her family, to enjoy each other’s company and companionship for much longer.

While, in the meantime, so many of our western “leaders” — yeah, that’s you, Little Joey KrapInPantz — do whatever they can to JACK-UP the price of any and all hydrocarbons; effectively, for example, putting them out of economic reach, that is, fuels such as propane … which would “miraculously”, all by itself, permit this young woman and her children to enjoy a much longer and healthier life.

Are we in the west — especially these “leaders” THAT WE THE CITIZENS HAVE VOTED INTO OFFICE — so callous that, for the sake of our collective desire to be duped by and embrace FAKE SCIENCE, are willing to sell down the river the health and fuller enjoyment of life so many of our fellow human beings?

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Nefty Ivan
July 6, 2022 7:03 am

I knew of someone who was showing African people some forty years ago how to build their own stoves made entirely of clay but for a single metal plate. It consumed considerably less wood and was far safer. This is the kind of appropriate solution that best fits many parts of Africa before they can afford to transition to something better.

Bill Rocks
July 6, 2022 11:25 am

PD Lawton,

Your review and perspective of energy in sub-Saharan Africa is appreciated.

July 6, 2022 11:42 am

I never realized that African were such coal burners, but makes sense I guess.

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