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‘Back to school’ call for changing coal sector

World Coal,

Skill levels in the coal sector need a boost if South Africa is going to make the best use of the smaller coal deposits remaining after larger, Eskom-tied collieries in the Witbank Central Basin reach the end of their productive lives.

Lesley Jeffrey, principal coal geologist at SRK Consulting (SA), argues that it may even be time to reinstate a ‘Coal School’, with obligatory participation of all levels in the workforce. Jeffrey says smaller companies are vital to the future of the sector, but warns that many suffer from a lack of technical expertise because of their size and their inability to attract sufficient capital.

Principal coal mining engineer, Noddy McGeorge, emphasises the need to improve productivity through higher skill levels and multi-skilling. McGeorge says smaller players need to prove they can access the funding required for sustainable operation and the right business model with Eskom.

As South Africa prepares to usher in a new era of coal mining, it is vital that those within the industry heed such warnings of skills shortages. It is indeed perhaps time many in the industry went ‘back to school’. 

Adapted from press release by Sam Dodson

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