Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
RUSSIAN energy giant, Gazprom, has expressed an interest in the extraction of coal bed methane gas in Lupane, Matabeleland North province, Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said yesterday.
Another Russian mining firm, Alrosa, was also eyeing diamond mining and value addition of the gems as companies from the Asian country explore more business opportunities in Zimbabwe.
Minister Chidhakwa said this after a meeting of Government officials led by Vice President Phelekhezela Mphoko and the Russian delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Mr Georgy Kalamanov.
“The relationship between Zimbabwe and Russia is strategic and we looked at a number of issues which include the coal bed methane gas in Lupane that we have been talking about for the past 20 years.
“We were advised that Gazprom may be interested in it and we hope further discussions will be held to finalise the project,” he said.
Gazprom’s major business lines are geological exploration, production, transportation, storage, processing and sale of gas and oil, and generation and marketing of heat and electric power.
Russians are experts in gas extraction and processing.
Gazprom holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves and at least 12 percent of the global gas output. The firm has a market value of about $51 billion. Estimates suggest that there is more than 40 trillion cubic feet of potentially recoverable coal bed methane gas reserves in the Lupane – Lubimbi area.
Minister Chidhakwa said discussion with the Russian delegation also focused on possible areas of cooperation in minerals exploration and diamond and gold production.
“We also looked at a number of areas as you know they have the largest diamond producer in the world (Alrosa) and we looked at possible areas of cooperation including exploration and the whole value chain of diamond production up to jewellery production,” he said.
Minister Chidhakwa said they also discussed cooperation in gold production especially assistance through technical expertise and lines of credit for artisanal miners. The revival of the Kwekwe Roasting Plant which used to process dumps of refractory gold ore also emerged in the discussions. The plant was shut in 2000.
“Reviving the Roasting Plant in Kwekwe has the potential to revive the industry in Kwekwe and it’s another area we discussed,” Minister Chidhakwa said.