Botswana’s new coal plans, the return to mining research, breaking hard rock with foam

It was very interesting listening to the plans of Botswana coal mining companies on South Africa call for 3 750 MW of cross- border power from independent power producers (IPPs). Much reference was made to a gazette notice put out by South Africa’s Department of Energy that opens the way for arriving at coal-fired electricity delivery. It was clear from comments at the Botswana Resources Sector Conference that grandiose plans to build railway lines to export raw coal out of the country are fading.

Fast taking its place are plans to use the coal to create electricity for export to South Africa and Zambia. There were also nods of approval for a tender now out to bolster electricity infrastructure between Botswana and South Africa for use by IPPs. By lifting its electricity tariffs significantly, South Africa’s State utility, Eskom, has created sufficient leeway for IPPs to mine and beneficiate Botswana’s huge resource of thermal coal.

Finland is to assist Botswana in restructuring its geoscience. A team of Finnish geoscientists is due to arrive in August and strategies are already in place to take Botswana geology online so that its offerings can be studied by global resource investors.

Mining research and development (R&D) is back with the reopening of the old Chamber of Mines Research Organisation (Comro) facility in Carlow road. This is an outcome of 120 South Africans spending five weeks working together to position South African mining as a collaborative engine for holistic economic growth.

Seed funding has been provided for some quick wins that will be part of a rebuilding of the mining value chain and a forging of all the important linkages. The spotlight is on cracking South Africa’s narrow-reef hard-rock challenge with the use of locally developed equipment that will also have export potential. Responsiveness, rather than prescription, will be the order of the day.

Veteran researcher Rod Pickering is highly impressed with a new way of breaking rock that promises to enhance safety and boost production in narrow-reef hard-rock gold, platinum and chrome mines. Pickering, who spent decades running Comro’s stoping technology laboratory, outlines how a mixture of air and water with a little bit of soapy material manages to break rock in much the same way as explosives do, except it happens in a totally inert way, with no chemical reaction whatsoever.

CFI has broken every rock type encountered during trials and is envisaged for all mining and civil engineering rockbreaking processes that use explosives in short and small-diameter blast-holes.


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