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Zimbabwe: Communities to Benefit From U.S.$30m Power Project

TagsElectricity tariffs, Electricity utilities, Rural Electrification, Statistics

Communities in Gutu, Zaka and Bikita have received a major boost after Bikita Minerals Sinomine laid the US$30 million Tokwe-Bikita 132KV powerline that will add impetus to the Government's rural electrification drive as Zimbabwe continues on its march to attain upper middle income economy status by 2030.

The 120km line was needed foremost to ramp up lithium production by Sinomine-owned Bikita Minerals as the firm pulls all the stops to hike production and earn the country more hard currency through increased exports of the value-added mineral. But many others benefit.

Over 1 000 jobs were created directly under the mine billed to be one of the flagship projects to grow the economy in Masvingo as the province races to morph into a US$8 billion economy by 2030 with mining being one of the major anchors.

However, it is the anticipated lighting up of communities neighbouring Bikita Minerals, such as Gonye in Gutu, Chivake in Bikita and some parts of Zaka, that has brought excitement as the development adds impetus to the rural electrification programme.

The US$30 million project by Bikita Minerals Sinomine also underscores the firm's commitment to contributing to aggregate national economic growth while also benefiting communities where the firm operates.

Permanent Secretary for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Addmore Pazvakavambwa said the powerline was a boon for rural electrification with schools, business centres, health centres and even rural homesteads now able to be connected to the grid.

Building of the transmission line and substations under the project cost about US$22 million.

A further US$2 million was earmarked for rural electrification in surrounding districts while the rest of money went towards the supply of materials of power distribution feeding lines and feasibility studies.

Dr Pazvakavambwa revealed that the project was funded through an offshore loan sourced by Bikita Minerals Sinomine with the firm expected to recoup its investment through power supply from ZESA over a period of five years.

"The project will also come with reinforcement of downstream 33kV network coming from the new substation to supply Gonye in Gutu, local load in Bikita and Nyika, Zaka and Chivake. The project supports rural electrification.

"It is also providing backbone infrastructure for the connection of Masvingo City load through a higher capacity, more reliable and more efficient 132 kV network. The project is coming with OPGW (optical ground wire) which will provide backbone infrastructure for internet access to schools, businesses, clinics and other social amenities in Gutu, Zaka, Nyika, Bikita local and other surrounding areas."

Bikita Minerals Sinomine was also expected to increase its workforce as the powerline opened new windows for expanding operations while also improving efficiency as mining operations were sometimes powered by diesel generators.

"The power line has created direct employment for over 1 000 skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers during the construction phase, with general labour of not less than 80 percent coming from the local communities. Completion of the project will mean that more people will be employed by Bikita Minerals as a result of the expansion," he said.

"Living standards of people in communities in and around the project area will improve together with health and education conditions for most schools and clinics that did not have access to electricity."

According to Dr Pazvakavambwa completion of the powerline augurs well for Bikita Minerals Sinomine after the firm, last year, pumped around US$200 million to build spodumene and petalite processing plants in line with the beneficiation agenda.

"With specific reference to Bikita Minerals their current mining operations of petalite, which produces on average 4 percent of lithium when refined, are constrained by power as the mine is heavily relying on diesel generators to supplement and backup power at the mine. The mine has embarked on the mining and processing of spodumene which has a higher content of about 7 percent lithium when processed.

"Spodumene was discovered in the early years of the mine but has never been explored as the concentrate grades were low and iron content high for the market at that time. The coming of this project will boost operations at the mine. This mimics the impact of power projects on the lithium mining sector," he said.

"This will also benefit the country as value addition will be able to be done locally, a process that requires more reliable and quality power.

"Furthermore, the provision of power to the sector will boost investor confidence as power is an integral part of mining. In addition, this fully supports the US$12 billion vision of the country."

Bikita Minerals Sinomine has already set sights on raking in earnings of up to US$1 billion this year thanks to investments in expansion, especially making sure the firm has adequate and reliable supplies to ensure continuous operations.

Sinomine has invested substantial amounts of money after snapping up Bikita Minerals in a US$300 million deal that has since positioned the mine as a flagship project in Masvingo province's mining sector.