Chinese firm in Gwayi coal project

BULAWAYO — China Africa Sunlight Energy (Case), a Chinese coal and coal bed-methane mining company which failed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) last year, is poised to resume its multi-million dollar investments in Gwayi.

In 2012, Case was ordered to stop extracting coal in the area by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) after failing the EIA, dashing hopes for an alternative source of power in the country.

EMA argued that Case’s activities could be harmful to the ecosystem.

But the company is hopeful it will pass the environmental test in its second attempt.

This comes after the Gwayi Valley Intensive Conservation Area complained about the growing number of coal mining companies operating in the conservancy fearing their operations would destroy the hunting and photographic safaris, which are their major source of revenue in the wildlife-rich area.

Among other benefits to accrue to the country include a $2,1 billion investment in four years, creation of 4 000 new jobs and $1 million in community share ownership scheme.

The company has the potential to produce three million metric tonnes of thermal coal, one million metric tonnes of washed coal and 500 000 metric tonnes of coking coal annually.

Case is a joint venture between Oldstan Investment and Shandong Taishan Sunlight.

However, Environmental Guardian Services senior consultant Michael Montana, argues that the Chinese company’s activities would bring minimum damage to the environment.

“This will be an underground mining operation hence very little negative environment impacts can be expected,” Montana said.

The project seeks to extract gas for both domestic and industrial use.

Domestic commercialisation of the gas project will have a pilot programme in Hwange and eventually Bulawayo.

Consultants say the company “successfully conducted exploration and the Environment Impact Assessment” and its exploration is almost complete.

“We are happy to note that the assessment has been done with minimum environmental degradation.”

The company maintains that their projects would bring immense benefits to Matabeleland North Region and the country, hence government should do a cost benefit analysis.

“It is naive to imagine that developments of this nature cannot degrade the environment, what is important is that stakeholders in the situation should work together for a win-win situation,” Montana said.

According to Bulawayo-based economist, Erich Bloch, a study was carried out which showed that the methane gas fields discovered more than 60 years ago have the potential to meet energy needs of the Sadc region for the next 150 years. - Nyasha Chingono

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