Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe could face increased load-shedding after critical coal mines that supply Hwange Thermal Power Station were flooded following heavy rains that pounded the area on Saturday.
Hwange received heavy rains of up to 139mm in three hours on Saturday, which caused flash flooding, leaving 35 families in two suburbs — Number 1 and Ciderella Village — homeless.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi last night tweeted: “The weather has conspired against us. Hwange Power Station Coal Plant flooded. Power station now down to zero megawatts. 400MW lost. Zesa Working to recover.”
Coal miners said delayed payments totalling $100 million for power coal will slow the de-watering of the pits, while Zesa Holdings said poor quality power coal was damaging the station.
Coal mines were flooded, said Coal Producers Association chairman Mr Raymond Mutokonyi in an interview yesterday, with his own Makomo Resources, the largest producer, the worst affected.
Hwange Colliery, the second largest producer, said it will work to remove the flood inflows quickly.
“It is a disaster in terms of coal mining, as the pits are flooded,” said Mr Mutokonyi.
“The situation is made worse by the fact that the de-watering process is expensive and most coal miners do not have money to undertake this mammoth exercise since the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is not paying us for coal supplied.
“Coal miners are owed in excess of $100 million by ZPC as at January 10, 2020, but we have supplied more coal since then and the figure is now over $100 million.
“All mines are affected and we hope to start the process of de-watering on Monday (today).”
The flooding of coal mines recently significantly cut output at South Africa’s thermal power stations, resulting in the rolling out of power outages from November to December last year.
There are a number of coal miners in Hwange, including Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), Makomo Resources and Zambezi Gas.
Hwange Colliery’s corporate affairs manager Mrs Rugare Dhobbie said the mine had top-of-the-range equipment for de-watering.
Makomo, which has become the country’s biggest coal miner after taking advantage of operational challenges affecting Hwange Colliery, said it had been hit hard by the flooding.
The miner supplies most of the coal for electricity generation to ZPC, the power generation unit of Zesa Holdings.
ZPC is understood to be struggling to pay for coal since cash flows have been affected by load-shedding, which has seen power consumption plunging.
However, Zesa board chairman Dr Sydney Gata denied last Friday that coal miners were not getting their money.
“They are being paid, even for coal which is out of satisfaction,” he said.
“They are being paid for the poor quality coal they are supplying, which damages equipment.
“I am meeting them (coal miners soon) to tell them that if they continue to supply rubbish coal, we will not pay. I will embarrass them. I was in Hwange yesterday (Thursday last week) and everyone is complaining about the quality of coal. Only Hwange can complain, not all those makorokozas.”
After being told that coal miners were complaining of being owed over $100 million, Dr Gata said he did not have the details.
Mr Mutokonyi denied claims that the coal they supply to Hwange was of poor quality.
“There are quality control aspects that take place on both sides,” he said.
“They can’t talk of poor quality coal.”