THE Ministry of Mining has roped in South African coal mining experts to explore the viability of starting commercial coal mining in Mohale’s Hoek with a view to soon licence an operator.
Mining Minister Serialong Qoo, who toured area last Thursday, said coal mining has the potential to expand the country’s limited mineral resource profile which is dominated by diamond and sandstone mining, to contribute to the country’s economic development.
Previous coal prospecting activities in the area were abandoned midway and therefore failed to determine the viability of commercial mining.
He said the government has therefore tried a different approach by enlisting the services of coal mining experts from South Africa to assist in the exploration of the area.
“The Ministry of Mining is bringing in coal mining experts to conduct studies that will determine the quantity and quality of the coal deposits in the area,” Mr Qoo said in an interview this week.
“We are expecting the experts to jet into the country before the end of this month. We have a working arrangement with them to team up with our ministry experts to extract soil samples from the area for laboratory analysis to determine whether or not the area has enough deposits for commercial mining and for how long.
“Depending on the findings of the study, we intend to invite investors through a tender process that we hope to finalise before the end of the year.”
The ministry is hoping to secure investors who will partner with the local community to ensure local participation and beneficiation.
He said coal deposits have been known to exist in the Qhalasi area for many years, with members of the community reported to have engaged in individual small scale digging for coal deposits that are visible on the surface. It was one of these unregulated diggings that led to the tragic death of three women when the mine collapsed on them in the 1980s. Since that tragedy, community members have refrained from the diggings.
Mr Qoo said the company that was previously given the rights to prospect the area upped and left without completing the task.
Kenco Mining and Sando Investments, in a joint venture with a South African company, Masemanzi Mining Company were in 2017 awarded a prospecting license for the area.
“That company has left… Sometimes you will find that prospecting companies are unable to work due to lack of the required financial resources for the work they need to carry out.”
He also updated the community on the forthcoming diamond amnesty for persons in possession of unsold diamonds as part of his visit to the coal site. He said he has already tabled a subordinate law in parliament to facilitate the process.
“The Precious Stones (Prevention of Illicit and Theft of Diamonds) Regulations, 2020, to give amnesty to those with unsold diamonds in their possession to surrender them without facing the law has been tabled before parliament and awaiting to be discussed,” he said.
He said the government will collect the diamonds from the public and sell them locally on their behalf. The government will charge a four percent fee from the proceeds of the diamonds.