South African coal mining today

In South Africa produced 229.2 million tonnes (Mt) of coal, a decline of 11.2% from pre-COVID levels in 2019, when tonnages measured 258.3Mt. Sales of coal were valued at R246.7 billion, with just less than half of this being for the export market.

The country’s coal mining industry employs almost 92,000 people, who earn some R29.6 billion. Some 70% of the coal mined in South Africa is consumed domestically, with some 81% of electricity being generated from coal.

Coal production and employment [graph]

At current rates of production, South Africa has reserves sufficient to satisfy its needs for more than a century. With shallow and high-quality resources in the Witbank (or Emalahleni) coal field being depleted, mining companies are required to find alternative and more cost-effective methods to extract the deeper, low quality coal seams of the basin. In addition, emphasis is being placed on exploring and developing the Waterberg coal field as well as others in Limpopo province.

South African coal has a comparatively medium ash content, which can be reduced by washing before sale. Higher grades of coal are delivered to export markets with the lower-grade product burned by Eskom’s specially-designed power station boiler hearths.

Major South African coal
mining companies

Anglo American Coal [logo]

Anglo American Coal

Exxaro [logo]


Glencore [logo]


MC Mining [logo]

MC Mining

Sasol Mining [logo]

Sasol Mining

Seriti [logo]


South 32 [logo]

South 32