Chinese firm plans Zimbabwe’s biggest coal mine, thermal plant

Chinese firm plans Zimbabwe’s biggest coal mine, thermal plant

By Alfonce Mbizwo, GWAYI, September 3, 2013 (The Source) – China Africa Sunlight Energy has discovered four billion metric tonnes of coal reserves on its Gwayi concessions where it plans to set up a mine with a life span of over 140 years, an official said on Tuesday.

The company, a 50/50 joint venture between Zimbabwe’s Old Stone Investments and Shandong Taishan Sunlight of China, plans to set up a 2,200 megawatt thermal power station, a gas extraction plant and a coal brick factory in Gwayi, about 700 kilometres from Harare in Matabeleland North province, in addition to the coal mine. The whole project will cost about $2.1 billion over five years.

China Africa general manager, Charles Mugari, said exploration work was successfully completed in June while the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) last week gave the company the green light to start work on what would be Zimbabwe’s biggest coal mine.

“Now we are doing detailed exploratory reports and after that we will go into the mining design. In fact, the mining design is already ongoing in China so by end of September they will bring the designs and work with our local consultants here,” he said.

The company has already spent $20 million in exploring for coal and gas, Mugari said. The coal mine will start operations next year, he added.

“The first thing we are focusing on is coal mining, followed by power generation then gas extraction,” he said, adding that there were no conclusive figures for the gas reserves as yet, but quantities were enough for commercial exploitation.

China Africa plans to use the gas on the domestic market to generate power.

“When the gas aspect is fully operational, we want to start a pilot project with Hwange (Thermal Power Station) and if it is successful, we will then go to Bulawayo,” said Mugari.

Bulawayo has a 90MW thermal power station but produces 30MW due to ageing plant equipment.

The company also plans to export the gas to India and is exploring ways of using the Mutare-Beira pipeline for the purpose.

It has targeted to produce 2,200 megawatts of power by 2018, with two plants to produce 300MW each targeted to start production in June and December 2015.

“We are working on two plans: we will sell directly to (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority), and also we will use ZESA infrastructure to transport directly to our own selected customers, like mining houses who require dedicated power supply. We may also export some of the power,” said Mugari.

When fully operational, the project will employ 4,500 people directly and thousands others downstream from downstream industries, he said.

“We think the project is going to be one of the flagships of the Zimbabwe economy,” said Mugari.