Prosper Ndlovu in Harare
ZIMBABWE is positioned to tap the growing global investments in clean energy industries and needs to increase exploration in hydro-carbon reserves to unlock funding, experts have said.
Contributing to discussions during the 6th Zimbabwe Mining and Infrastructure Development Indaba here on Wednesday, mining experts said clean energy projects were attracting billions of dollars that the country could not afford to miss.
The director of Zimbabwe Geological Survey in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Mabasa Hawadi, said only 60 percent of the country was geologically mapped in detail with the remainder being a grey area for exploration.
He said no oil deposits had been detected so far but confirmed vast untapped deposits of coal-bed methane, mainly in the Gwayi area in Lupane, Matabeleland North.
Scott Macmillan, the managing director and co-founder of Invictus Energy Resources, said hydrocarbon exploration was on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa with six of the top 10 global resources found on the continent as of 2013.
“More than 500 companies are doing these explorations in Africa. These are set to unlock more economic development opportunities in the continent and create jobs,” said Macmillan.
He said several countries in the region such as Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya were busy doing exploration aimed at unlocking new opportunities and urged Zimbabwe to position itself for that investment boom.
“Zimbabwe is competing for exploration in the regional beauty contest and it’s key for us to increase exploration activity to unlock this potential revenue. This country has world class coal-bed methane gas and stands to benefit immensely from the resource,” said Macmillan.
Geological Associates of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Paul Chimbodza said the country should start working on beneficiation and value addition plans on gas to ensure increased earnings from by-products of the resource as opposed to exporting it in raw form.
He said Africa was not utilising the bulk of its gas reserves despite abundant resources.
“Increased exploration for natural gas is paramount and we believe the volumes are too big for the Zimbabwean market hence we need plans for beneficiation. Potential markets are in Hwange for power generation, Pande-Temane gas pipeline to South Africa and Sable Chemicals fertiliser manufacturer, which currently is the biggest consumer of electricity,” said Chimbodza.
“The global scenario is that countries are slowly moving away from coal to clean energy sources that produce power at cheap rates. Statistics indicate that 18 million vehicles in the world have been designed to use gas as fuel and this could also solve our fuel problems. It will actually cut by half our fuel costs. It therefore makes sense for Zimbabwe to embark on an exploration campaign.”
However, the experts noted the huge costs of conducting exploration and the long-term nature of developing the projects.
They urged the government to address the legislative, fiscal and licensing bottlenecks to allow for increased participation and partnership between public and private players.