The Zimbabwean government said Thursday it is keen to preserve the pristine condition of the country’s largest game park, Hwange National Park, in the western part of the country.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu made the remarks at a press conference following reports that government had granted special permits to two foreign companies to mine coal in the vast game reserve.
“We are trying to look at different ways of resolving the issue. Obviously we are not too keen to disturb a national park. We would consider other areas but the discussions are around making sure that we preserve the pristine standing of our national park,” Ndlovu said in response to a question from Xinhua.
He said government will make a public announcement on the matter in due course.
According to media reports, two firms are reportedly exploring for coal in the game reserve, raising concern from wildlife activists, tour operators and the local community.
Zimbabwe boasts of vast coal reserves, particularly in the north-west and southern parts of the country.
Several coal mines have opened in Hwange District over the years, joining Hwange Colliery Company, the country’s oldest coal mine, and several other major coal miners including Makomo Resources and Zambezi Gas.
Coal is a strategic mineral for Zimbabwe, as the country’s biggest power plant, Hwange Power Station, is coal-fired.
The power plant is currently undergoing a 1.5 billion U.S. dollars upgrading and expansion program by Chinese firm Sinohydro, to add 600 megawatts. This will raise the plant’s capacity to 1, 520 MW.
The 42-month project is due for completion in mid-2022.