Australia-listed exploration company Hodges Resources has started a drilling programme at its Moiyabana project, in central-eastern Botswana. The country’s eastern region has massive coal resources, estimated at 17-billion tons.
The initial resource drilling programme is planned to consist of 125 drill holes for a total of 14 000 m and will be completed over three consecutive phases.
Phase 1 drilling will focus on the definition of a maiden Joint Ore Reserves Committee-compliant inferred resource over the central-southern target area, while subsequent drilling phases will be aimed at upgrading existing resource categories and defining the extent and continuity of new resource areas.
During the course of the drill programme, average and maximum hole depths have been modelled to be between 125 m and 180 m respec- tively. It is expected that phase 1 drilling will be completed within two months, while the greater programme will be completed over a six-month period.
Mining consultant Runge states in an independent geological report that a coal exploration target of 1.4-billion to 1.6-billion tons could be defined in the 140 km2 area, of which an estimated 660-million tons indicates suitability for opencast mining.
Hodges Resources MD and geologist Mark Major describes the country as “Africa for beginners”.
“There are a number of years of International Monetary Fund influences which have stabilised the country. Other benefits are that the country has a small population and low corruption levels. Botswana has the ability to become a powerhouse for the central mining area in Southern Africa.”
Major believes that the time is right for such a mining project in Botswana. “When thinking of Botswana, the first thing that comes to mind is diamond mining but, looking at the resources potential this country holds, such as significant coal resources as well as base metal copper, it is time for it to develop into those min- ing sectors, as it is a developing country.”
Botswana currently has one operating coal mine, the Morupule mine, which is 93%-owned by Debswana and supplies coal to Botswana’s only coal-fired power station, the Morupule thermal power station, as well as to the mining operations at Selebwi Phikwe and to the Sua Pan soda ash plants.
The Moiyabana project is situated about 90 km from the Morupule colliery and 50 km from existing rail infrastructure in central-east Botswana.
“Coal mining is not significant in Botswana. At the moment, the country produces about 120 MW of power from its Morupule colliery. But it has such a diverse range of coalfields available to be exploited in future. It is also poised to look at exporting in the future,” Major adds.
He notes the company’s second project, the Morupule South project, in Botswana, has an estimated inferred resource of about 414-million tons of coal, with an exploration target of 800-million tons.
The company is currently considering three options for the use of the coal. “The first is exports, but there are talks that the TransKala- hari railway will only start construction in 2015. There is also a need for surrounding countries to upgrade their infrastructure before exports will be entirely possible.
The other options are to receive a domestic licence to produce power in Botswana, which will fill the power deficit void and also relieve South Africa’s power grid, or the coal could be used in the coal-to-liquids process. There are already a number of gas turbines active in Botswana,” he concludes.