By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | GABORONE (IDN) — There may be a lump of coal in Botswana’s Christmas stocking if the southern African country goes through with plans to wind down its famed diamond industry and replace it with unsustainable dirty coal.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, at the Investing in African Mining Indaba, unveiled the country’s new direction acknowledging an abysmal year for the diamond market which hurt government revenue. It is “more imperative than ever”, he said, “to diversify into other commodities and curb the nation’s overdependence on precious stones”.
The initiative comes as the American Museum of Natural History unveils an exhibition of the latest large ‘fancy blue diamond’ extracted from Botswana’s open-pit Orapa mine.
Currently, India’s Jindal Steel & Power Limited is finalizing plans to construct a coal mine in Botswana’s southeastern Mmamabula coalfields in 2022, aiming to supply the export market and a planned coal power plant, a company official told the Reuters news service.
The Indian industrial giant aims for the mine to produce 4.5 million tons of coal per year.
“Work will start next year and develop in phases over two to three years. Regional demand is increasing, and the South African market has appetite for Botswana coal,” Jindal Botswana country head Neeraj Saxena told Reuters.
At the COP26 climate conference, Botswana signed on to a global commitment to reduce the use of coal, but opted out of a pledge to stop issuing new coal mining licenses.
The coal plant is its only currently planned fossil fuel-based power project.
Lefoko Moagi, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, said the aim is to reduce Botswana’s dependence for electricity on neighboring countries South Africa and Mozambique, and, potentially, become a net exporter of energy.
Demand for electricity often exceeds supply, which results in load shedding, the use of back-up diesel power plants plus electricity imports through the Southern African Power Pool.
However, the country’s power plants are not efficient, and it currently imports — mainly from Namibia and South Africa — more than 50% of its needs, draining government coffers.
Moagi said the plan aims to generate sustainable jobs and increase foreign direct investment, stressing that “all the IRP projects will be procured on independent power producer basis using open international competitive bidding”.
This is not the first surprising move by the Botswana government toward a controversial initiative opposed by environmentalists. In 2015 it was learned that Botswana had authorized fracking in Kgalagadi National Park – one of Africa’s largest and wildest conservation areas in Africa.
The Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism later denied the reports. But as of 2016 Karoo Energy has full control of Tamboran Botswana and pledged to progress with petroleum exploration licenses. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 November 2021]
Photo: Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Source: New African
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