Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe attended the opening of a new coal mine, promoting using the dirtiest fossil fuel as the government struggles to control an energy crisis.
Africa’s most industrialized nation has been subjected to controlled blackouts almost every day this year to prevent a total collapse of the grid as state utility Eskom fails to meet demand.
The outages have the potential to deepen during the winter, and officials and lawmakers have been meeting to consider alternatives to bolster the electricity supply.
One option would be to extend the life of Eskom coal-fired plants that were due to be retired over the next few years, but that would undermine South Africa’s plans to transition to cleaner forms of energy — a process that rich nations have pledged $8.5 billion to help fund.
“Coal is going to be here for a long time,” and clean-coal technologies could help prolong its use, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said Friday while touring Seriti Resources’ Klipspruit Colliery in the coal-rich Mpumalanga province.
A video of his remarks was posted on his Twitter account.
Mantashe, a former mine worker and labour union leader, who has previously said he doesn’t have a problem with being identified as a “coal fundamentalist,” has overseen a stop-start program to boost renewable power generation.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as electricity minister earlier this year and tasked him with overseeing the government’s response to the blackouts. However, he has yet to clarify what powers he will have.