Global steel production is dependent on coal. Over 71% of the steel produced today uses coal. Metallurgical coal – or coking coal – is a vital ingredient in the steel making process. World crude steel production was 1.6 billion tonnes in 2017.
Manufacturing steel delivers the goods and service our societies need – healthcare, telecommunications, improved agricultural practices, better transport networks, clean water and access to reliable and affordable energy. Steel is an alloy based primarily on iron. As iron occurs only as iron oxides in the earth’s crust, the ores must be converted, or “reduced’ using carbon. The primary source of this carbon is coking coal.
Coal is produced by two methods: surface or “opencast” mining and underground mining. Southland Resources utilizes the surface mining method to produce nearly 400,000 tons of metallurgical grade coal each year.
Surface mining utilizes explosives to loosen the overburden of soil and rock; it is then removed by dozer, excavators and trucks. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is also removed by excavator and trucks and stockpiled according to its quality. The coal is then crushed, blended and loaded onto trucks for shipment to either the coal preparation plant or direct to where it will be used.
Coal mining is only a temporary use of the land, so it is vital that rehabilitation of land takes place once mining operations have stopped. In best practice a detailed rehabilitation or reclamation plan is designed for each coal mine, covering the period from the start of operations until well after mining has finished.