ZIMBABWE Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) said it was entering into coal mining in Sinamatela to complement Hwange Colliery Company’s production to reduce the rate of load shedding.
Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira told businessdigest on Tuesday that plans to venture into coal mining were underway and that operations were set to begin in August.
He however could not reveal the financier of the project as logistics were still being discussed.
“Zesa Holdings has plans to venture into coal-mining at Sinamatela with the intention of ensuring consistent electricity supply,” said Gwasira.
He said it was premature to reveal finer details of the strategic partnership, including the identity of the financier, as negotiations were still in progress.
Early this year Zesa said it had found a financier for its long-term coal-mining project in Hwange’s Sinamatela and Western Area Coalfields reserves.
“The electricity utility is not entering this project as a competitor to Hwange Colliery Company but to beef up coal supplies to ensure that there are increased electricity supplies in the country,” said Gwasira.
The electricity utility company is currently refurbishing Hwange Power Station (HPS) with stage one expected to be completed in June.
In February 2007 Zesa entered into an agreement with NamPower of Namibia in a US$40 million investment for the refurbishment of Units One to Four.
“Once completed, HPS will be in a position to generate a reliable 480MW to the national electricity grid.
The overall expansion programme will result in HPS generating between 700 to 800MW of electricity, a development that will reduce load shedding as well,” said Gwasira.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing increased power cuts due to declining capacity of its aging power plants.
Industry, which is said to be operating at about 30%, has been particularly hard-hit by regular power outages, which have caused a decline in production.
According to Gwasira, Zesa was not going to re-pay the NamPower loan in hard currency but was “amortising the loan through electricity exports of 140 megawatts until it was paid up”.
Under the deal, signed between the two countries when President Robert Mugabe visited Namibia in March 2007, Nambia would receive 180 megawatts for a minimum of five years as part of a power purchasing agreement with Zimbabwe Electricity and Transmission Company, a subsidiary of Zesa.
The plan was to have the last of the four generators fully repaired by August last year.
The four generators at Hwange are capable of generating a total of 480MW, but have been operating erratically as Hwange struggles to cope with frequent equipment breakdowns and coal shortages.
BY NQOBILE BHEBHE