COAL production in Zimbabwe is anticipated to leap to 15 million tons next year as new producers come on stream while existing ones are also expected to raise their output, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Zimbabwe boasts of huge coal deposits in Matabeleland North province where companies such as Hwange Colliery and Makomo Resources are active. Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said production was expected to rise as several new coal mining projects were lined up.
“Traditionally we produce about three million tons of coal per annum. This year we expect that we will produce just about four million tons, but the installed capacity for coal production by next year will be 15 million tons per annum,” he said.
“We have Liberation Mining around the Gwayi area, they already have the full equipment, which has been installed (but) there have been a few administrative issues relating to their production but they will begin production in the new year.”
Minister Chitando said Government was working on developing a coal export corridor running from Matabeleland North as part of efforts to develop the coal sector.
“Initiatives for the establishment of a coal corridor and a port for exports will be intensified working together with the Ministry of Transport,” he said.
The minister said the agreement signed with Dubai-based company Victoria Consultant, would assist in boosting production and to secure coal export markets.
“The agreement with Victoria Consultant provides for it to source markets as well as capital for the expansion of coal (projects),” he said.
Zimbabwe, which started coal production in the early 1900s, has an estimated 25 billion tons of coal reserves. The country, which says its abundant mineral resources include more than 40 exploitable minerals, is seeking to maximise mineral exploitation to reboot its economy.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe expects to start producing sufficient electricity for domestic use and surplus for export by 2024 through the exploitation of its huge and untapped Coal Bed Methane (CBM) deposits as well as investment in new thermal power stations.
Zimbabwe has one of the highest measured CBM resources in Southern Africa and is believed to be sitting on an estimated 765 billion cubic metres in the Hwange/Lupane basins. In early 2012, Mozambique discovered CBM in areas that border Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province into which it is believed the gas also flows.
Coal bed methane offers a cleaner alternative source of power compared to coal and the scope is even greater for its exploitation considering that Zimbabwe is battling a severe power crisis due to over-reliance on hydro power, which is affected by seasonal rainfall.
It can also be converted into diesel, petrol, ethanol, fertilisers, aviation fuel and other products including specialist lubricants and waxes.
Minister Chitando has said the country expects to generate electricity from CBM within the next two years while five investors, including Afrochine, Jinan and Karo Resources were also at various stages of setting up thermal power stations.
Analysts contend that CBM exploitation presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to lessen its dependence on imported petroleum and electricity while also providing an alternative means to produce cleaner energy from coal. — New Ziana