Often ignored are the social and economic benefits of coal mining. These benefits go far beyond the energy it provides and the products like steel and cement that are made from coal. Coal mining supports local communities and provides a big boost to regional and national economies.
The presence of coal mining supports economies in many ways. At the most basic level coal mining provides employment for local communities. In South Africa the coal industry totals more than 12% of the mining workforce – more than 65,000 workers – and it is estimated that more than US$1 billion in wages are paid to its workforce each year.
Even more importantly however, the impact that these jobs have is spread widely across communities at large. In South Africa it has been estimated that the impact of one employees’ salary in the mining industry on average feeds and clothes the equivalent of ten people, including children and the elderly.
Coal mining often occurs in rural and remote areas requiring significant infrastructure development, particularly the development of transportation links such as road and rail. Mining often brings increases in other infrastructure services such as electricity. Improved infrastructure due to mining activity can also support broader economic development within the region, supporting other industries and facilitating the development of social infrastructure.