Coal-mining communities left in the dust for a greener future

South Africa’s government is promising a Just Energy Transition as coal will be replaced by renewables. But what are the experiences of mining communities on the ground?

Schoolchildren pass an abandoned mine pit on the outskirts of Wesselton, Ermelo’s satellite township.

Coal is a booming business for people in or near eMalahleni (Ermelo), the commercial hub of Gert Sibande district municipality in Mpumalanga. Situated about 200km east of Johannesburg, the area is home to Camden coal power station, scheduled to be shut down by 2025.

“Coal is the heritage of this province, it is the backbone of our economy. It’s an undeniable fact,” says Philani Mngomezulu, founder of an established community-based greening project called the Khuthala environmental group.

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