Hwange set to re-open mine

HWANGE Colliery Company Limited says it will resume underground mining at one of its key mines next year and push monthly coal export volumes beyond the current 3 000 tonnes, businessdigest can reveal.

By Tinashe Kairiza

Hwange, which recently secured a US$32 million loan retooling facility, has embarked on an ambitious drive to replace obsolete equipment with plans afoot to boost monthly coal and coke output to 400 000 tonnes.

The resumption of underground mining at the “3 Main Mine”, which was initially penciled in for this year, will see yields of “high quality coking coal” to satisfy export demand.

Hwange managing director Engineer Thomas Makore said resumption of underground mining would see a jump in coal export volumes within the region.

“Currently, the company is exporting around 3 000 tonnes per month to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique.

“Efforts are underway to increase export sales, improve quality and delivery of the product to customers. The resumption of operations at the 3 Main Underground Mine will be a major boost to the export drive given the high quality of Hwange Colliery’s coking coal,” he said.

Commencement of underground mining, Makore said, would “improve the product mix of Hwange Colliery.”

The miner has increased monthly coal output by nearly 1 000% from 30 000 tonnes buoyed by the acquisition of modern mining equipment after the company secured fresh lines of credit for retooling. Overall coal output production jumped from a low of 30 000 tonnes per month in 2016 to 170 000 tonnes in May 2017 and 234 000 tonnes in June 2017 as turnaround strategies began to bear fruit.

Makore said other drivers of growth have been equipment repairs, maintenance, stabilisation and availability of working capital for production inputs as well as focussed production.

“The acquisition of modern machinery is critical for Hwange Colliery Company in order to build capacity to produce adequate coal volumes for the domestic and regional markets,” said Makore.

Hwange secured a US$3,2 million loan in August this year which was meant to repair its broken down “continuous miner” — a specialised heavy duty underground mining machine.

The continuous miner, which accounts for about 45% of all underground output, broke down in 2015, bringing the mining of deep-lying coal to a halt.

When operating optimally, a continuous miner processes about five tonnes of coal per minute.