Regional demand for energy, along with escalating prices and plentiful reserves will drive an expansion of coal project development in South Africa, according to a report released by Frost & Sullivan.

The San Antonio-based consulting firm last week said in its "Production and Investment Forecast in Southern Africa's Coal Mining Industry" report that coal production there could reach 308 million metric tons by 2018. In 2012 production stood at 266.1 million metric tons.

In 2012 there were a total of 53 coal expansion projects in the region collectively worth $45.58 billion. Coal accounts for a significant share of Southern Africa's primary energy needs while it is also a big export item, finding customers in China, India and Europe.

"As the market grows, South Africa is poised to consolidate its lead as the largest coal producer in Southern Africa despite the depletion of the country's Witbank, Ermelo and Highveld coal mines," Wonder Nyanjowa, a Frost & Sullivan analyst, said.