Coal miners get ultimatum

HARARE - Mines minister Walter Chidakwa has threatened to cancel mining licences of two coal miners, Monaf Investment (Monaf) and Appex Petroleum (Appex), due to non-performance.

Chidakwa said government was not happy with lack of progress by the two coal miners which received grants seven years ago to mine coal in Lubu, Lasulu and Binga.

The duo’s mining licences will expire this year and there’s a huge possibility that the licences may not be renewed in January next year.

“The law says that we must give them six months and renewable in another six months and then look at the activity that is taking place on the ground.  If that does not happen, the government can in fact withdraw the exploration grant that would have been given to them,” he told Senators last week.

“I do not know whether they are in their first six months or in their second six months.  I am aware that once it reaches 12 months with no activity on the ground, we should in fact withdraw the special grant and enable somebody else to do the exploration,” Chidakwa said.

Both companies received their grants in 2010 with the intention of setting up thermal power stations and coal mining ventures, a development that was expected to uplift impoverished Binga.

The mines were also expected to complement power generation by Hwange Thermal Power Station, Kariba Hydro-electricity Power Station and other power stations to help the country plug its power deficit.

However, there has been little progress on the ground.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s coal output — integral to Zimbabwe’s energy industry — plummeted 38 percent at the end of 2016 to close the year at 2,7 million tonnes from 4,3 million tonnes, crippling thermal electricity generation in the country.

Monaf was issued with Special Grant, SG 4686, covering 19 236 hectares, in March, 2010 for a period of three years.

The Special Grant — known as the Lubu Coalfields — is situated 60km due South of the town of Binga in Matabeleland North.

According to Chidakwa, over the three-year tenure, Monaf embarked on an exploration programme.

During this time, the miner spent approximately $4,1 million on analysis of more than 500 samples and hired experts to complete the design and management of the exploration programme.

“Then the first tenure expired in 2013, the company then applied for an extension of the Special Grant which was granted for a period of two years.  This started from January 8, 2016 to January 7, 2018.

“During the almost three years of waiting before the renewal, the camp was dismantled, workers were disengaged, access roads were destroyed by rain and there was no maintenance.  What they are doing now is to re-mobilise funding in order to start the activities.

“We hope that re-mobilisation exercise will be completed soon and it will enable them to continue with the exploration programme,” the minister said.

With regards Appex, Chidakwa said the miner was granted Special Grant 4949 and 4950 70km South-East of Binga, covering 2 000 hectares.

“During this tenure, an exploration programme was started which included Phase 1 exploration drilling, termed twin holes, which was aimed at ascertaining confidence in the historical data from the Shell Coal Company and nine diamond drill holes were completed.

“Phase two exploration drilling had planned 30 diamond drill holes but then completed 23 diamond drill holes on a grid roughly one km by one km, meant for resource and quality data determination.

“The tenure expired in 2013 and the company applied for an extension of the Special Grant, which was granted for another two years, starting from January 8, 2016 to January 7, 2018.

“We hope that this will enable them to do their work. What they have been doing is simply to review historical data.  That is it in terms of Lubu, part of it is really reviewing historical data,” he said.

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