Bots new coal mine hangs in the balance

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE – The construction of a new coal mine in Botswana hangs in the balance as famers who hold surface rights in the proposed area are embroiled in a dispute with the developer Morupule Coal Mine (MCM).

In a statement released this week, the company states that six of the 166 farmers affected had declined to accept proposed compensation but that the company was trying to resolve the issue.

The open cast mine is meant to supply coal to a new 300 megawatt (MW) power plant set to be built by independent power producers as part of Botswana’s plans to be self-sufficient in power generation by 2020. But the compensation dispute is causing delays to the construction of a coal mine, which has the capacity to produce 1.35 million tonnes of coal per annum

According to Morupule Coal Mine, about P200 million would be lost monthly due to the delay, and half of the losses were being shouldered by the government.

The government has been forced to import electricity to plug a power deficit. The country has one operating power station with a generating capacity of 600 MW but the plant has broken down often since its launch in 2012, prompting imports from South Africa.

Official figures obtained from Statistics Botswana show that during the first quarter of 2017, power generation imports decreased.

Comparing figures from the first quarter of 2016, Statistics Botswana indicated that electricity imports decreased by 63.9% from 523,736MWh to 189,052MWh, Mmegi Online reported.

This is due to the improvement in local power generation at Morupule B, whereby the plant is slated to be now producing more than half of its capacity.

Statistics Botswana added that the decrease in imported electricity could be seen to be a result of increased production to reduce reliance on importation.

Local media reports indicate that the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang, has since made a recommendation to President Ian Khama to issue a directive to the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation for a compulsory acquisition of “all land identified as necessary for the development of a new open cast mine in the Morupule area”.

Kebonang is quoted as confirming the standoff between the farmers and the Ngwato Land Board (representing farmers) on one hand and the MCM on the other.

“It is a fact that there is a disagreement relating to compensation of farmers in that area, we have since referred the matter to a third party to advice on it as there is a dispute on the rightful amount of compensation to be paid,” Kebonang was quoted as saying.

At the same time, Kebonang is said to have told Khama that due to the urgency of the matter and the fact that consultations have been held on the matter with the government, the Ngwato Land Board and the concerned farmers, “any further consultations would be futile”.

MCM is reportedly worried that should the government accede to a proposal by the Ngwato Land Board to pay former cabinet minister Boyce Sebetela over P26 million, and other farmers a combined P10 million, this could result in a bad compensation precedent set.

MCM reportedly believes that the move will make land acquisition for mining projects in the future very expensive and that it will have a negative impact on all land valuations for all subsequent mining projects.

July 2017
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