Binga coking coal project comes on stream Current state of Contango coal project in Binga. — @ContangoPlc

Nqobile Bhebhe

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LONDON-listed natural resource development firm behind the Lubu coking coal project in Binga, Contango Holdings, has completed the connection of power to key infrastructure on-site including the wash plant and laboratories in readiness to commence production of coking coal from next week.

The project is one of the major milestone development in Matabeleland North Province under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, which is set to transform the socio-economic fortunes of the previously marginalised district.

By exploiting its huge untapped coal deposits, Binga, which shares the borders with Hwange, Lupane, and Gokwe districts is primed to leapfrog past development hurdles and increase its contribution to the mainstream economy through enhanced economic activities covering mainly tourism, mining, fishing, and agriculture.

The Lubu Coal Project covers 19 236 hectares of the highly prospective Karroo mid-Zambezi coal basin, located in the established Hwange mining district in north-western Zimbabwe.

The new investment is expected to contribute significantly to the country’s prospects of meeting mining revenue targets of US$12 billion by 2023 under the mining roadmap launched by President Mnangagwa in 2019. The coal sector is expected to contribute US$1 billion.

The investment comes at a time when the New Dispensation is taking deliberate steps to mainstream the speedy development of Binga in line with the devolution agenda, which aims to ensure inclusive development across the country.

Now renamed Muchesu Coal, the new Lubu Coal Project, is also expected to trigger a string of economic spin-offs for the community including job creation while boosting the country’s energy sector, as well as exports.

Already, in terms of spin-off focusing on infrastructure development, the mining firm is constructing modern homes for families displaced by the setting up of a coking coal production plant with close to 20 houses nearing completion.

The new homesteads are being constructed in a valley north of the mine and comprise three-roomed houses, which are at roof level, two round-thatched huts and a toilet.

Contango Holdings has previously indicated that it will use part of its share capital for the agreed relocation of households from the mine site.

Relocation of households from the mine site provides a larger footprint for the mine and operations to meet heightened demand.

The mine has also rehabilitated the road from Manjolo to Muchesu

This dovetails with President Mnangagwa’s philosophy of “leaving no one and no place behind”, as all previously marginalised areas are benefiting from the on-going economic growth.

On coke production, the first offtake was signed with AtoZ Investments (Pty) Ltd to purchase 10 000 tonnes per month of washed coking coal produced at Lubu.

Since the beginning of the year, the mining firm has been speeding up the installation of infrastructure on site as it targeted first-quarter production.

In an update on Tuesday, Contango said it had wrapped up six key activities ranging from the completion of grade control drilling confirming the presence of vitrinite banding throughout the Main Seam Upper.

Vitrinite is formed in high-grade coals, contributing positively towards coking characteristics. Also completed is the pollution control dam, 600 000 litre settling ponds, and the removal of overburden enabling access to the targeted coking coal seam. Added to that, studies and training in the laboratories and connection of power to key infrastructure on site including the wash plant and laboratories and installation of the ramp and bins to feed the wash plant with Lubu coal has been completed. The wash plant is expected to produce 20 000 tonnes of washed coking coal per month.

“This week the company will connect its fully refurbished 600 tonnes-per-hour screen to the wash plant, which is the final equipment requiring installation ahead of first production.

“Accordingly, the company anticipates the commencement of processing and production of coking coal from next week, as well as calibration of the processing equipment to optimise output,” it said in a brief statement.

The London-headquartered firm has a 70 percent interest in the Lubu Coal Project in Zimbabwe, with the remaining 30 percent held by supportive local partners.

Coal remains the dominant energy mineral for Zimbabwe and the country boasts of vast reserves of the mineral, particularly, in the north-west and southern parts of the country.

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