GOVERNMENT has granted the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation special grants to explore coal and coalbed methane gas in Matabeleland North Mining District.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Fred Moyo confirmed in an interview yesterday that the licences issued to the ZMDC were in relation to coal and coalbed methane gas. The notices were published in the Government Gazette last Friday.
“The special grants are in relation to coal and coalbed methane and the applications have been there for a long time,” said the deputy minister adding that “their immediate interest will be in coalbed methane gas exploration . . . a low barrier entry.”
Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coalbeds. In recent decades it has become an important source of energy in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The special grants are effective from July 31 this year to July 30, 2018, according to the notices issued by Mining Affairs Board chairman Professor Francis Gudyanga.
The special grants are granted by the President. The licence holders are then expected to start exploration work within few months from the date of issuance of the licence.
If licence holders fail to begin exploration within the period, they are expected to advise the Government and give reasons why their licence should be extended, if they wish so. The Government, if not satisfied, may withdraw the prospecting licence.
In the past few years, the Government granted 28 special grants for coal exploration, but just a few are being utilised.
The Government once indicated that it would repossess unproductive mining claims to pave way for new players and investments.
Coal has been the dominant energy mineral for Zimbabwe. The country boasts vast reserves of coal particularly in the northwest and southern parts of the country.
ZMDC, the State-owned mining company, has a mandate to invest in the mining industry on behalf of the State. It also plans, co-ordinates and implements mining development projects, through joint ventures on behalf of the State, according to its website.
Already, it has interests in gold, emeralds, copper, diamonds, tantalite, asbestos, limestone and tin.
Meanwhile, coal production is expected to accelerate during the second half of the year as the sector is expected to benefit from
the recapitalisation of Hwange Colliery Company.
Production is expected at 2,8 million tonnes in the first half against an annual projection of 7,8 million tonnes, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa
First half output was weighed down heavily by the significant decline in output at Makomo Resources, in reaction to drastic reduction in the demand for coal, particularly by its major buyer Zimbabwe Power Company, which had accumulated stocks.
“Nonetheless, coal output in the outlook should . . . improve as production capacity at Hwange Colliery grow, with the company’s tonnages projected to gradually rise to around 300 000 tonnes per month,” said Minister Chinamasa.
The Government supported the purchase of mining equipment for Hwange Colliery, by guaranteeing the Export–Import Bank of India’s $13,03 million line of credit to the company.