oa Africa Insight - The Role of Energy in the Processing of Southern Africa's Minerals1

Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



The supply of mineral raw materials and sources of energy will increasingly be affected by social and political factors. Competition for supplies of mineral raw materials will play an increasingly important role in the economic development of nations and in the shifting balance of power. The energy crisis, which started in October 1973, has shown that the cheap energy policies, which Western countries had followed for the previous two decades, had resulted in the decline of their domestic energy industries and in a failure to develop the technology for the use of alternative sources of energy. Time, capital and crash programmes of research and development are required to remedy this situation. The South African energy economy is unique in its heavy reliance on coal as a primary source of energy, and because of the energy-intensive nature of our economy, resulting from the exploitation and processing of abundant reserves of metals and minerals. South Africa's future economic development will depend on our success in developing those industries where we have the best comparative advantage, namely in the exploitation and processing of our metal and mineral resources. Major growth in these industries will require massive inputs of energy. For the foreseeable future this energy will have to be derived mainly from coal. Hence the importance of conserving our limited resources of coal and of developing the technology to produce the necessary reductants from the Republic's relatively low-grade coal deposits.

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