According to documents seen by businessdigest, the dragline could have run out by the end of last year had the company been operating at 100%.
The documents also showed that the company has been operating at between 50% and 60% for nearly two years.
Hwange Colliery Company has three operational mines namely JKL Opencast (widely known as the dragline pit), Chaba Opencast and 3 Main underground mine.
An expert report said reserves at Chaba and 3 Main mine, which produce industrial coal used in metallurgical industries, were projected to last until 2020, although Hwange says 2027.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Hwange Colliery Company public relations manager Burzil Dube said coal reserves at the dragline pit “are expected to have been depleted within the next two years while those at Chaba and 3 Main are to last for the next 17 years (2027)”.
“This leaves the colliery company with a challenge as far as the long term survival of the organisation is concerned. We are currently operating at 60% of our capacity which is also subject to our customers’ demand,” he said.
To avoid plunging the country into further darkness, government has to give mining concessions to other players so that they open up new mines to replace the depleted ones in order to boost production before the mine runs out.
Dube said: “applications for new mining concessions around the colliery were submitted to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the licences are yet to be granted.”
Workers at Hwange said the future of coal mining in Zimbabwe was currently with Clidder Minerals because Hwange Colliery could have operated below 30% had the company not been supplying it with coal.
Sources said Clidder Minerals’ contract with Hwange Colliery ends in September this year.
“Clidder Minerals was contracted three years ago by the colliery company to mine the product (coal) whose quantity or volume is subject to our requirements and needs,” Dube said. “As you are aware that the world over (including Zimbabwe) most mining houses outsource or contract their operations for various activities as part of efforts to capitalise on their business and the colliery is no exception.”
The sources said Clidder Minerals has been able to deliver all the quantities that Hwange colliery requested.
“The engagement of Clidder Minerals whose contract is ending by September this year was to enable or give the colliery company an opportunity to capitalise its business ventures,” Dube said.
He said the commodity was sold to the local market which is very depressed as most industries were not operating at full capacity.
The global consumption of coal is expected to increase by 4% annually between 2010 and 2030 in line with the rising global demand for energy.
“The company’s main thrust is to intensify the export drive,” Dube said.
Hwange sells Coke peas for US$65/tonne, Foundry coke between US$320-350/tonne, Met Coke US$350, Coke breeze US$320/tonne and breeze US$55 per tonne to various markets.
“Lucrative deals have been clinched with firms based in Belgium, India and South Africa,” said Dube without giving figures of how much the company has made from the deals. “Some of our longstanding customers are companies and organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. Markets have also recently been found in Malawi and Mozambique but we are however facing logistical challenges on exporting the product.”
Zimbabwe’s coal mining industry remains unbalanced, with rising coal demand on one hand and constrained supply sources on the other.