In another twist involving the public protector’s office‚ the Minister of Co-operative Governance an.
South Africa has at least 200billion tons of coal reserves, which puts us on par with Saudi Arabia's oil as an energy powerhouse. But only 32billion tons of this can be effectively mined.
The rest is too deep or too poor in quality to use in a world that is back-pedalling to undo the effects of climate change.
Fossil fuels such as coal emit a soup of poisonous by-products that rise into the atmosphere and surround Earth with a chemical blanket. This layer traps heat and will stew our grandchildren alive as rainfall patterns change and vast tracts of South Africa are converted into desert.
Rich and poor countries quibble about who is to blame and what is to be done, but within decades everyone can expect enormous taxes on climate-changing industrial effluent that is spewed into the atmosphere.
Eskom's underground gasification technology will pump air and water into underground coalfields. The coal will be burnt in place to produce gas that will then be used to power electricity-generating plants. By-products can also be used as feedstock for chemical plants, using much the same technology Sasol now uses to make petrol and other products.
The technology is far more effective than mining and can use far more of the underground coal than conventional extraction.
A pilot plant has already been established at Majuba power plant in Mpumalanga and if the technology proves effective, a full-scale 2100MW plant could be built at a cost of R22billion by 2012.
The utility is also considering 27 other sites for similar power stations.