The African continent contains approximately 5 percent of the world's proven recoverable reserves of coal (World Energy Council, 2007). Energy consumption in Africa is projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.3 percent from 2004 through 2030, while average consumption in first-world nations is expected to rise at 1.4 percent annually (Energy Information Administration, 2007). Coal reserves will undoubtedly continue to be part of Africa's energy portfolio as it grows in the future. A review of academic and industrial literature indicates that 27 nations in Africa contain coal-bearing rock. South Africa accounts for 96 percent of Africa's total proven recoverable coal reserves, ranking it sixth in the world. This report is a digital compilation of information on Africa's coal-bearing geology found in the literature and is intended to be used in small scale spatial investigations in a Geographic Information System (GIS) and as a visual aid for the discussion of Africa's coal resources.
Many maps of African coal resources often include points for mine locations or regional scale polygons with generalized borders depicting basin edges. Point locations are detailed but provide no information regarding extent, and generalized polygons do not have sufficient detail. In this dataset, the polygons are representative of the actual coal-bearing lithology both in location and regional extent. Existing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) digital geology datasets provide the majority of the base geologic polygons. Polygons for the coal-bearing localities were clipped from the base geology that represented the age and extent of the coal deposit as indicated in the literature. Where the 1:5,000,000-scale geology base layer's ages conflicted with those in the publications, polygons were generated directly from the regional African coal maps (1:500,000 scale, approximately) in the published material. In these cases, coal-bearing polygons were clipped to the literature's indicated coal extent, without regard to the underlying geology base or topographic constraints.
Indication of the presence of African coal is based on multiple sources. However, the quality of the sources varies and there is often disagreement in the literature. This dataset includes the rank, age, and location of coal in Africa as well as the detailed source information responsible for each coal-bearing polygon. The dataset is not appropriate for use in resource assessments of any kind. Attributes necessary for tasks, such as number of coal seams, thickness of seams, and depth to coal are rarely provided in the literature and accordingly not represented in this data set. Small-scale investigations, representations and display uses are most appropriate for this product. This product is the first to show coal distribution as bounded by actual geologic contacts for the entire African continent. In addition to the spatial component of this dataset, complete references to source material are provided for each polygon, making this product a useful first step resource in African coal research. Greater detail regarding the creation of this dataset as well as the sources used is provided in the metadata file for the Africa_coal.shp file.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
GIS Representation of Coal-Bearing Areas in Africa