PRELIMINARY results of the ongoing coal explorations in Qhalasi in the district of Mohale’s Hoek suggest that Lesotho could soon have its first coal mine.
This was revealed by Kananalo Ntabejane, the Managing Director of Kenco Mining, one of two local companies which partnered with a South African company, Masemanzi Mining Holdings, to prospect for coal in the Qhalasi area last year.
The other local company in the partnership is Sando Investments.
Mr Ntabejane said the prospecting had so far indicated that there were significant coal deposits, adding, “The next step is to do core drilling which will help us to determine the extent to which the coal deposits occur”.
He said this during a recent ceremony where the prospecting companies were formally introduced to the local community by the Minister of Mining, Keketso Sello.
For his part, Mr Sello said the success of the Qhalasi coal project would open up several investment opportunities.
The minister implored the companies to treat the locals with respect and give them first preference in terms of employment once full scale mining operations commenced.
Masemanzi Mining owner, Wonderboy Manzini, promised that locals would be given first preference in terms of employment and they would also be empowered through ancillary developments like electricity, water and sanitation services.
One of the villagers, Joel Khitsane, expressed hope that the proposed mining venture would improve their livelihoods through job creation and mitigate the challenges brought on by the migration to South Africa where most youths were exploited in farms and mines.
Lesotho’s current mineral resource profile is limited to diamonds, sand stone and clay. There are however, prospects for the mining of dolerite, oil, shale gas and coal and exploration rights have already been awarded to some local and foreign companies.
Although it has not been determined whether or not they are commercially viable, coal deposits have been exploited at a small scale in the Qhalasi area for many years by locals who have engaged in open cast mining.
Unregulated excavations have however, not been without tragic consequences as women diggers died after their ‘mine’ collapsed and crushed them in the 1980s.
Several foreign companies have been engaged to prospect in the area for many years but nothing has ever materialised much to the frustration of the locals who yearn for jobs.
A mine in the area would also result in other developments of infrastructure like roads while communities hope the mine would provide electricity facilities as its social responsibility initiative.