Just a few years ago, South Africa’s coal industry was on the up and up, shrugging off the malaise affecting the industry elsewhere. Now, many producers face closure in a stunning reversal of fortunes.

As coal mines closed in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere, South Africa’s mines appeared to thrive. The world’s sixth largest exporter, the country’s mines were, however, geared mostly toward a single local customer — state electricity utility Eskom.

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