Capacitate coal miners to cut power imports

Source: Capacitate coal miners to cut power imports | The Herald June 8, 2019

Capacitate coal miners to cut power imports

Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Makomo Resources, the country’s biggest coal mining company by output, has implored ZESA Holdings to consider capacitating local coal miners so that they produce more coal to preserve the scarce foreign currency and create more jobs.

The call follows the announcement by acting ZESA chief executive officer Engineer Patrick Chivaura that the only way out of the current electricity generation and supply bottlenecks would be overcome if the country imported more power.

Eng Chivaura told miners last week that Zimbabwe required US$20 million to import 600MW of electricity per month.

He said the load shedding being experienced was due to reduced imports, which have plummeted to 100MW from 450MW in the past.

Eskom of South Africa and Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) are open to increasing power exports to Zimbabwe, but only after ZESA has honoured its US$83 million debt, and craft a workable payment plan.

But Makomo Resources director Mr Raymond Mutokonyi told The Herald this week that while power imports were important for the short-term, there was need to capacitate coal miners to ensure adequate coal to fire thermal power stations.

Mr Mutokonyi believes the move would help the country to conserve forex and create more jobs at coal mining firms.

“We are a bit concerned with the statement that came from the ZESA chief executive officer that the priority is to import power from Eskom to avert national power shortages,” said Mr Mutokonyi.

“We believe internally, if the core mines are capacitated and running, we should be able to guarantee the base-load at Hwange Power Station and the small thermals.

“Instead of putting the US$14 million to US$18 million that we require per month to Eskom to import power and export jobs to South Africa, it might be important to take maybe US$5 000 or US$7 000 of that US$18 million and capacitate coal producers in terms of equipment, explosives, and whatever they require and guarantee the coal volumes wanted by ZPC (the Zimbabwe Power Company).”

Mr Mutokonyi said while importing power was not bad, the move had the effect of impacting negatively on coal mining in the long term.

Critically, local coal mines that employ over 5 000 permanent workers will be forced to shed jobs.

“So, I believe they can import what they need, but they should also ensure that coal producers are producing to cover the base-load,” said Mr Mutokonyi.

Coal producers have created a WhatsApp group where officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development have also been co-opted, to discuss the challenges affecting coal miners.