Sustainability challenges for coal extraction

Recently (October 19-20, 2022), stakeholders from industry, academia, and government gathered at Missouri University of Science & Technology’s Experimental Mine to discuss the future of coal at the inaugural Future of Coal Workshop. The two-day workshop had four sessions that allowed participants to learn from industry and academic leaders regarding the market outlook, challenges of producing coal sustainably, research needs, and workforce needs. Participants then went into detailed discussions on these challenges and how the industry can move forward.

Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, leader of the Mine Sustainability Modeling Group, was the keynote speaker for the sustainable coal extraction session. In discussing the sustainability challenges for coal extraction, Dr. Awuah-Offei posted three main questions:

  • What are the sustainability/ESG (environmental, social and governance) challenges and opportunities for coal companies?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities beyond climate change impacts and mitigation?
  • How does all this affect the sector’s ability to provide value to shareholders?

In summary, Dr. Awuah-Offei recommended that coal companies must find approaches to be competitive among their peers on ESG performance, particularly regarding carbon emissions. Obviously, coal companies have a huge problem with scope 3 emissions and will find it difficult to achieve net zero total emissions. It is also important that coal companies know the stakeholders who really matter and align their ESG goals and disclosures to them. However, Dr. Awuah-Offei pointed out that coal companies have stakeholders beyond those who care passionately about climate change disclosures. Issues such as workplace health and safety, water, land use and impacts, and slurry impoundments are also important. Dr. Awuah-Offei observed it is going to be challenging for coal companies to create value for their shareholders in an environment where ESG and sustainability will require significant attention and investment. This requires good leadership, an approach to expand the market for coal, and investing in R&D to innovate.

Dr. Awuah-Offei’s full presentation is included below for your review.

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