Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Botswana’s coal deposits under-explored

A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that there could be many more Mmamabula-type coal deposits that have not been discovered.

“Africa’s estimated 120 billion tonnes of coal resources are concentrated in the southern part of the continent. They amount to less than 1 percent of world coal resources, but this relatively low figure reflects, in part, the lack of exploration in much of the continent. South Africa dominates Africa’s coal industry with over 90 percent of the 36 billion tonnes of proven reserves and virtually all of the continent’s production. However, other southern African nations, including Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Swaziland and Malawi, are endowed with significant coal reserves,” says IEA in a report which focuses on Sub-Saharan’s energy prospects. ┬á

Although Botswana’s production is “limited”, it has “plenty of potential” with estimated resources of 21 billion tonnes.

“Several projects to develop various coalfields have been proposed, but again it will not be easy to build the infrastructure required for exports to target markets in Asia,” IEA says.

The only coalfields that are currently being exploited are those at the Morupule Colliery which is operated by Debswana Mining Company and supplies power to the Botswana Power Corporation.
A second and even bigger coal project at Mmamabula has not taken off and has changed hands from Canadian to Indian owners.

According to IEA’s projections, coal demand in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by around 50 percent to reach 220 million tonnes of coal equivalent (Mtce) in 2040. Demand will remain concentrated in South Africa but also expand in some other countries, mostly in other parts of Southern Africa, but also in Nigeria and parts of East Africa.

At a political rally in Gaborone over the last weekend, President Ian Khama said never again will the country experience loadshedding which was a huge problem in the past three years. Khama said the government would build more Morupule-type power stations.

IEA says that in the coming years, Southern Africa will collectively account for more than half of coal demand growth predominantly for use in power generation but (in the case of South Africa) for coal-to-liquids production.

“Coal, which accounted for 94 percent of total generation in 2012, remains the dominant fuel for power generation, but falls to 61 percent by 2040, despite an increase in coal-fired capacity of 14 GW,” the IEA projection says.

Overall, the share of sub-Saharan coal production retained for domestic consumption will remain steady at around two-thirds, albeit at an increasing level of supply.

“A key factor in sub-Saharan coal resource development ÔÇô particularly in Southern Africa ÔÇô is the remoteness of the coal fields and the present lack of suitable railway and port infrastructure. Future production increases are driven primarily by growing domestic coal demand and (except in the case of Mozambique) to a lesser extent by export considerations. For Zimbabwean coal, transport distances to export ports are 1400 -2200 km and for Botswana 1300 -1500 km; but in neither case is there sufficient railway infrastructure in place,” IEA says.

The report notes that compared to major coal exporters like Colombia, Indonesia or Australia, these distances are very long, although shorter than those in the United States or Russia ÔÇô where the transport infrastructure exists.


Read this week's paper