WANKIE, the country’s sole coal producer, is allegedly giving preferential treatment to export clients at the expense of the local market in a bid to raise foreign currency,
the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
This week sources close to the troubled colliery company told the Independent Wankie was exporting coal to regional countries while local companies have failed to secure supplies for weeks on end.
The shortage of coal has forced several companies relying on coal for operations to suspend or scale down operations drastically.
Wankie is currently operating at less than half capacity due to the shortage of foreign currency to buy spare parts for machinery.
Sources close to operations at the troubled Wankie Colliery confirmed that most of the country’s coal was finding its way out of the country while there was a serious shortage in the country.
Companies that include Zimbabwe Sugar Refineries, Circle Cement, Portland Pretoria Cement, Delta Corporation and the tobacco industry have been forced to scale down operations as a result of the coal shortage.
Wankie is exporting large quantities of coal to companies in Zambia, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among other countries.
“Local trucks spend days waiting for coal but transporters for foreign countries are given priority and loading of those trucks is done at night,” said one source.
The source said in the last few weeks Wankie has increased the number of Zambian companies that it is exporting coal to.
According to the source Wankie has since the beginning of the year been exporting large quantities of coal to Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia and lately Chilanga Cement factory and Kongola Copper Mines have been added to the list.
Wankie’s spokesman Simukai Chihanga confirmed to the Independent that his company was exporting coal to the three countries in the region but said there was nothing sinister in the move as it enabled them to get foreign currency to buy spare parts.
“Wankie exports coal and coke mainly to the DRC, Zambia and South Africa,” Chihanga said.
“The company only exports about 5% of its total production and the limited foreign currency receipts we generate from these exports have enabled us to buy critical spares that have kept us going in the face of the severe foreign currency shortage facing the country at the moment.”
Chihanga however denied allegations that Wankie was giving priority to the export market at the expense of local customers.
“Customers make their own arrangements to transport coal from the mine,” said Chihanga.
“We load all local traffic during the day if coal is available while export traffic is loaded from 6 pm to 6 am. This arrangement enables export customers to clear their consignments with the banks and relevant authorities during the day,” he said.
However, sources said Wankie recently entered a deal in which it would supply Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia with a further 6 000 tonnes of coal in the coming two months.
According to sources Wankie is selling the coal at US$60 per tonne.
However, Chihanga said Wankie was currently unable to meet both the local and export demand due to lack of foreign currency to buy spares.
The company needs more than US$6 million to purchase equipment such as draglines, shovels, dumpers, drills, caterpillars and loaders.
“Wankie Colliery Company is currently unable to meet both local and export demand for its products due to the unavailability of foreign currency to import spare parts for repair and maintenance of machinery used to mine coal,” he said.