New coal mine starting production in Botswana

WORK IN PROGRESS The development of the new Botswana mine is in the planning phase, with site civils and on-site work in progress

AGAINST THE ODDS Despite the global transition away from coal, Denner notes that demand forecast for coal from Botswana remains high

31st March 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer


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Geological consultancy Gemecs has embarked on a project for the development of Botswana’s third coal mine, expected to start production by year-end, with the project in the mine planning phase, and site civils and on-site work in progress.

The exploration programme was completed last month and, once the lab results were received, the geological model was updated, reporting significant upside to previous resource estimations.

Acting as competent person on the project, Gemecs has been responsible for the mine’s geological modelling and resource estimations since 2016.

“After the mining licence was granted, we continued with the exploration planning and the project received full funding last year, allowing for exploration activities to kick off. Since December, we have been actively involved in the infill drilling activities, as well as managing and coordinating the project from start to finish,” says Gemecs MD Nico Denner.

After conducting infill drilling, Denner says opencast mineable coal resources for the mine have increased threefold, with a 50% increase in underground coal resources, adding that there has been a significant upside to the life-of-mine (LoM) and project viability, owing to lower mining costs and an increase in production profile over the LoM.

The mine plan is being revised to ensure that maximum value can be extracted over the LoM. Original mine planning demonstrated between 50 000 t a month to 75 000 t a month, but this could be increased, based on the new mine plan and the subsequent demand in the coal market.

Despite challenges pertaining to the obtaining of mining licences and marketing contracts, Denner notes that demand forecast for coal from Botswana remains high because of South African rail constraints and the ease of exporting coal from Botswana through Namibia and Mozambique.

European countries sourcing coal from Southern Africa have also allowed for new mines to be developed in Botswana, despite a global transition away from coal.

“Last year’s record coal demand has proved that it is still a critical commodity to ensure low-cost energy to countries globally. Botswana is, therefore, keen to grow its mining economy by increasing the production of commodities, such as copper and coal, to ensure growth in its mining economy.”

Further, after experiencing a downturn from 2019 to 2021, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gemecs has embarked on various coal exploration projects since the start of 2022, owing to exploration activities having increased on operational coal mines, as well as brownfield projects witnessing a revival.

Denner adds that demand has also caused previously marginalised opencast mines to be revived, as they become more feasible in the current price environment.

Meanwhile, Gemecs is collaborating with the FFF-Carbon Society to communicate alternative uses for coal and clean coal technologies, as coal still generates the lowest-cost energy, and research indicates that it is possible to decrease emissions while using coal-based energy.

Moreover, alternative coal research developments are ongoing in metallurgical coal markets and in the extraction of rare-earth elements from existing coal dumps.

Extensive studies are expected to be undertaken on the Botswana coal project, alongside industry experts and the FFF-Carbon Society, to ensure that new coal markets and uses are possible while ensuring a cleaner environment.

“Gemecs has been instrumental in increasing our client’s coal resource base and getting projects to production earlier while increasing current production profiles, owing to increased coal demand. We are committed to ensuring that we provide a professional, one-stop geological consultancy, from exploration to production,” Denner concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor



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