Botswana’s sole coal extraction mine, Morupule Colliery Mine will in no time commence yet another expansion to meet the demands of the growing local and regional coal market. This was revealed recently in Palapye by MCM officials to the Palapye leadership about the progress of the town’s largest private sector employer.
Morupule Colliery Mine which is wholly owned by the Mineral Development Company Botswana after buying out De Beers at the beginning of 2017 went thought the first phase of expansion (Morupule Coal Mine 2) in late 2012 to supply coal to Morupule B Power Station. The Mine Chief Executive told members of the Palapye Local Authority that their expansion undertakings are influenced by the fact that Botswana currently imports power from neighboring countries. “We are driven by the country’s need for energy or power, Botswana needs to be self sufficient in power generation,” he said.
He told administrators who visited the mine that Botswana has potential to be self sufficient in power generation and can even export power to other countries thus boosting national revenue because of the sufficient coal at the Morupule deposits. Since Government‘s decision to transform the power industry and remodel Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and transform it to only a distributer with the industry having independent power producers, the soon to start expansion of the Morupule Mine is directly aligned to the move.
According to Operations Readiness Manager of the proposed Morupule Coal Mine 3, Siyani Makwakwago, the mine will supply Unit 5 and 6 of the independent power producers with coal for Botswana to reach sufficient power. He revealed that the project was initiated in 2014 by the then Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources in order to resuscitate the country‘s power self sufficiency ambitions after the failure of Morupule B.
He noted that the government, after Morupule B project, introduced the Independent Power Producers (IPP) initiatives to relieve government from power production and distribution burden. “The primary reason was for the country to have security of power supply and also driven by the fact that Morupule B had not achieved that which we wanted , the plant has not been successfully in terms of getting us to where we wanted to go” Makwakwago said.
The Human Resource Manager of Morupule Coal Mine, Tom Mongale indicated that since MCM inception, the coal production has been growing over the years citing that after Morupule A and clients like BCL mine the MCM was expanded to meet coal demand at Morupule B. He noted that even after Morupule B clientele the mine has been supplying coal to South Africa and neighboring countries. He also revealed that the company has market demand spread across Southern African Region.
In addition, Makwakwago said even after the liquidation of the BCL, MCM production continued to grow because of regional demand and the Independent Power Producers initiative. Palapye District commissioner, Ernest Phiri could not hide his delight about the Mine expansion, observing that the expansion will complement government efforts and priorities of creating employment. “No one would dispute that this expansion will add more to existing jobs in Palapye and thus our town’s economy will grow and people’s lives will improve,” he said.
Lesedi Phuthego, Chairman of Palapye Sub Council explained that the mine expansion will unearth more value-chain businesses. “The mine expansion will open business opportunities and turn Palapye more commercial, we expert property business, rentals and SMMES to blossom from this undertaking,” he said. Morupule coal is consumed mainly by Botswana Power Corporation (BPC). The mine was recently awarded a contract to supply coal to Southern Africa’s leading cement supplier PPC Slurry in South Africa, making PPC the second largest MCM customer after BPC.
In June 2012, the Morupule Colliery Limited (MCL) 1 expansion project was commissioned. The project was launched in October 2010 at a cost of BWP1.7bn ($218m). It was undertaken to supply coal to the intended 600MW Morupule B power station built next to the Morupule A plant, which however turned out to be one of the country’s largest administrative scandal . Morupule Coal Mine's capacity has increased from 1 million ton per annum (mtpa) to 3.2mtpa following MCM 2 expansion.
Works expected to be carried out under the expansion project (MCM3) include the upgrade of existing conveyors, construction of an additional coal storage facility, and reconstruction of the existing crushing and screening plants. A second conveyor stream feeding the Independent Power Producer Unit 5 and 6 will also be constructed. In addition, a 750m concrete reservoir, new office buildings, pump station, workshops, control room, fire station, sewage plant and laboratory will be constructed.
Morupule is made of the Karoo Supergroup and the Palapye Group sandstones. It contains medium to low grade sub-bituminous coal. Coal is extracted from the 8m thick Morupule seam and the No.2 seam through conventional room and pillar mining methods. These operations are carried out at a depth of 85m and accessed through a single shaft. Continuous drill and blast methods were originally used after continuous miner operation commenced in 2004.
The number of continuous miners operating at the mine went up from one to four following the initial two expansions. The extracted ore undergoes primary crushing to reduce its size to 300mm and a secondary crushing which further reduces the size to less than 32mm. The mine is equipped with a 1mt capacity coal washing plant, which has been operational since January 2008. The plant removes coal particles that are less than 15mm.
It uses a Dense Media Separation (DMS) process to separate high calorific value (CV) coal from low calorific value coal. The coal is fed to the plant which includes a slow rotating drum. High CV coal floats on the top and low CV coal settles at the bottom. Coal from secondary crushing and the washing plant is blended and fed into the conveyor system to feed the power station.
Morupule Colliery is an underground coal mine located in Palapye, Botswana. It is the country's only coal operating mine and has been in production since 1973. The mine is estimated to contain 70 billion tonnes of proven and probable reserves. After the expansion which is expected to commence after consultation with stakeholders is complete Palapye economy will boom to extreme heights.
The town located along the A1 road and housing the country’ second University BUIST will further become Botswana’s commercial hub. Currently construction of 2 multi-million Pula shopping malls is undergoing. The expansion of Morupule Mine which will output an open pit Morupule Coal Mine 3 will result in more direct employment as well as indirect employment and a boost to Small Medium Enterprises, thus increasing ordinary Palapye resident purchasing power and defeat the argument that the 2 shopping malls will only be used by A1 road users.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”