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EEC BAGS LUCRATIVE COAL MINING RIGHTS

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MBABANE – Mining operators wishing to get a mining licence to open a coal mine at Lubhuku at Mpaka for the E12 billion coal thermal power plant, will have to get the green light from the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC).

This is because the mining rights for the opening of the coal mine at Lubhuku were given to the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) through an agreement that was signed between the entity and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, which highlights the E12 billion coal thermal power plant project at Lubhuku at Mpaka, whose feasibility study has just been completed. 

The thermal plant will be composed of a single boiler and a single steam turbine generator with an air cooled condenser. 

The boiler will be a Circulating Fluidised Bed (CFB) boiler and it will be fed with coal sourced from Mpaka 3 mine, which will be combusted to produce the heat. This heat will be used to convert water in the boiler into steam which will be used to drive a turbine housed in turbine-generator building. 

turbine

This turbine will produce electricity. The turbine generator will produce electricity and the turbine generator building will also house the control room. 

The type of coal to be used in the project is bituminous coal. 

According to Science Direct website, it is the most popular fuel for rotary kilns. 

It is quite abundant in many parts of the world, occurs in sedimentary rock formations and is often located close to deposits of limestone (also a sedimentary rock). 

It is a black, banded coal that weathers slightly. Weathering is the tendency of coal to break and crumble as it dries. 

According to sourced information, this type of coal, situated closer to the thermal plant site, is enough to last for the next 30 years. 

EEC was given the mining rights on the basis that the coal forms part of the resources to be utilised in the plant on the electricity generating process. 

However, it would be up to the entity to determine whether it would take the licence or seek the services of an independent mining operator for the mining aspect. 

This was revealed by Eswatini Mining Commissioner Robert Biyela when requested to give clarity on the matter as Mpaka Coal Mine is currently dysfunctional having last operated in 1992. 

“We have no mandate to issue out mining rights to any company because there is an agreement between EEC and the ministry which gave the entity the mining rights and it would be in their discretion on who gets the licence to operate the mine if they don’t make it their own mandate to operate it,” he said. 

 

consultancy

According to a consultancy company FirstEnviromental, which was roped in the project to carry out the environmental and social impact assessment, Mpaka Coal Mine was closed many years ago but the coal mining aspect will be a separate undertaking independent of the power plant. 

The intention of the consultancy company is to formulate a plan on how the negative impact of the thermal plant will be mitigated while the positive impacts will be enhanced in the form of a comprehensive mitigation plan.  

FirstEnvironmental said the feasibility study was specifically for the power plant not the mining aspect. EEC Marketing and Corporate Communications Manager Khaya Mavuso referred all queries to the ministry, stating that the project was pushed by government and EEC was just an implementing agency. 

Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy Communications Officer Sikelela Khoza said the mining aspect was a separate issue altogether and needed serious deliberations on its own.

“For now, there is currently no information on the mining of the coal or which company will be mandated to do the mining. We have just finished the feasibility study and the ministry is yet to tackle the other aspect that feeds into the overall project so it would be premature to divulge information on who does what as that is yet to be discussed as the project progresses,” he said. 

 

project

The E12 billion coal thermal power plant project is expected to get underway at least by December 2021. 

Worth mentioning is that there are other companies who had expressed desire to reopen the Mpaka Coal Mine in the quest to do a project similar to the one whose feasibility study has been finalised. 

One in particular is Ubuntu Mining and Energy Ltd whose Director, Ken Van Zyl, submitted a proposal to the Minerals Management Board for a dense media separator (DMS) treatment plant at Mpaka which would cost E62.7 million to erect. 

In the proposal document, Zyl said the thermal power station would be established at Mpaka to produce electricity to be supplied to Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) at a subsidised rate.



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