During his keynote address at the Council for Geoscience Summit (CGS), held at the Durban International Convention Center from October 25 to 27, South Africa’s Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe expressed his belief that coal could “reinvent itself,” given sufficient investment, according to Creamer Media.

Mantashe cited the CGS’s lead role in the pilot carbon capture, utilization and storage project in Leandra, Mpumalanga. The project, which is expected to become operational in early 2024, will test the feasibility of injecting between 10,000 to 50,000 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide a year, to a depth of at least 1 km.

He described the project as one that “gives [ . . .] hope that our Just Energy Transition program can be attained [using] one of our most valuable commodities. One that has provided baseload for the country.”

On the subject of coal, he noted that, while the government’s commitment to “international protocol on climate change remains resolute,” the transition from a high- to a low-carbon economy might be achieved with coal as part of the solution, should the hypothesis of clean coal prove viable. 

He stressed that the energy transition should not hinder electricity access, commenting on the pressure on developing countries to decarbonize despite their inability to provide access to the vast majority of their citizens. 

To that end, he suggested that some activists’ calls for the eradication of coal were shortsighted, pointing to the energy challenges in Europe following Russia’s decision to cut gas supply to the region.