Seriti Resources CEO Mike Teke said the mining company’s investments in water treatment systems could become a significant game changer which could see it selling water to municipalities as constraints in the water-stressed country continue to bite.
“We are investing more in water treatment plants. Ultimately, we are going to find ourselves selling water to municipalities. It will happen. When I started talking about the concept in 2004 people were laughing. Now, I’m telling you, water is going to be an issue. It’s a challenge. We need to do something about it,” he said.
Teke was speaking during a panel discussion at the 2024 Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Wednesday. The panel discussed just transition and whether reliance on coal power was holding back the African continent in its energy transition. His remarks brought into sharp focus the water quality challenges faced by the water-scarce and drought-prone region.
According to the 2023 Blue Drop National Report by the department of water & sanitation, out of the 958 water supply systems in the country, 467 or 49% achieved excellent microbiological quality, 49 or 5% had good microbiological quality, and 442 or 46% had unacceptable microbiological water quality.
“The water in the systems poses a serious acute health risk to the community. Failure to produce water that meets microbiological compliance standards can be linked back to poor operations, defective infrastructure, inadequate dosing rates, absence of disinfection chemicals, lack of monitoring, lack of operating and chemistry knowledge and several other root causes,” the report said.
The report said water services institutions that were not monitoring the final water quality at the outlet of the treatment plant or end-use points were required to develop a monitoring programme and urgently resume with compliance monitoring.
Teke said as markets move away from coal-dominated energy production systems, their interventions require immense foresight and planning.
He slammed the decommissioning of Eskom’s Komati coal power station and its repurposing with solar, battery, wind power as a “mistake”.
By July last year, the decommissioning and repurposing of the plant was expected to launch its renewable energy programmes and job creation interventions, but these faced significant delays.
Teke said Seriti Resources was aware renewable energy sources were unavoidable but said the discussion regarding South Africa’s short-term and midterm future in energy production needs to focus on “coal and renewables, not coal or renewables”.
Speaking at the McCloskey by OPIS Southern African Coal Conference in Cape Town last week, Teke said while Seriti Resources is building more coal mines, it is also building a “massive” 155MW wind farm in Mpumalanga.