Labour union the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has expressed its support for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s pro-coal stance, alleging “coercion” is being employed to move the country away from the carbon-intensive fuel, driven by an “anti-fossil fuel agenda”.
As he has done on numerous occasions, Mantashe reaffirmed his strong pro-coal convictions most recently at the Africa Energy Indaba, held in Cape Town, on March 7.
The NUM says South Africa has an abundance of coal reserves and that it is “very irresponsible” to campaign against the use of coal.
The union says it opposes the R131-billion offered to South Africa by developed nations to accelerate the closure of coal mines and coal-fired power stations. “The closure of the power stations in Mpumalanga must never be unnecessarily rushed, as it will have devastating socioeconomic impact.”
However, efforts are under way in Mpumalanga at Eskom’s Komati power station to advance the Just Energy Transition – a process designed to ensure people involved in fossil fuel power generation get upskilled in renewable energy systems.
In the same paragraph of a statement on March 10, the union says “coal mines must be left alone” and that “South Africa needs to start building environment-friendly power stations”, stating that there are different ways in which “coal can be made clean”, such as carbon capture and filtration.
While saying it is “not opposed to renewable energy”, the NUM says South Africa must continue following the Integrated Resource Plan to implement mixed energy.
The union also proceeds to lay blame for climate change on developed countries saying they have used fossil fuels to build their economies over the decades. “They are responsible for the climate change crisis that we are now facing.”
The NUM also says it agrees with Mantashe’s claim that “coal will be with us for many years to come, and those who see it as a road to corruption will be disappointed”.
The union also cautions newly appointed Minister of Electricity in the Presidency Kgosientsho Ramokgopa “not to jump high” before meeting all stakeholders.
“For [Ramokgopa] to fully understand all the dynamics [of] Eskom, it is important for him to consider an urgent meeting with us so that we can share notes.
“. . . we do not want to see . . . the privatisation of Eskom through the back door,” the NUM says.
The union claims efforts to privatise Eskom started with the utility’s unbundling into three separate operating units, and allowing independent power producers to enter the market.