LESOTHO is poised for major mining developments with the potential to contribute millions of maloti to the fiscus after the government signed agreements with two mining companies to prospect for coal and shale gas.
Thaba Naleli Energy and Masemanzi Mining this week received memorandums of agreement (MOAs) from the Mining Ministry to prospect for shale gas and coal respectively.
The shale gas which will be in the southern part of the country is a source of energy whose by-products include fuel and lubricants.
Speaking at the handover event in Maseru yesterday, the Commissioner of Mining, Tšeliso Ntabe described the exploration phase as a “milestone for Lesotho,” as the mining operations that were likely to follow would significantly improve the economy.
Mr Ntabe also said his ministry would ensure the exploration would not impact negatively on the environment.
For his part, Thaba Naleli Chief Executive Officer, Brian Jones said his company had been authorised to prospect in the region below the 29 degrees line of latitude.
He said the first phase involved geological research, where the relevant data would be compiled into standard formats from which interpretations could be made concerning the geological structure of the region.
He said the research would assist in the targeting of preferred sites for the diamond drilling of the deep, straight-down vertical boreholes which would provide the geological data which would be sampled and analysed for gas parameters in the United States of America.
He said the second phase would be the quantification of the gas resource and this involved horizontal drilling and fracking.
He said they expected to find gas resources ranging from three and 10 trillions of Cubic Fill (TCF), adding if this were to materialise, then the country would be capable of building “a significant industrial and financial infrastructure with that amount to thrust itself as an economic force in its own right within the southern African sphere of influence”.
Dr Jones said the exercise would create employment opportunities, adding personnel would be recruited by the ministry during the research phase.
Masemanzi representative, Jacob Khumbane said his company would prospect for coal in Mohale’s Hoek at Qhalasi and Matebang, with a view to determining whether there were significant deposits for viable commercial exploitation.
He said they would apply for mining rights if they made significant finds and conversely, they would rehabilitate the area if they failed to make any significant finds.
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Mining, Makhojane Monyane yesterday said the ministry was still to decide on who of Letlaka Mining Group, MCC and SHM Solutions, Thaba Minerals exploration, would be awarded the lease to the government-owned Lemphane Diamond Mine.
Ms Monyane said the three were shortlisted from nine companies that had applied, adding they were now involved in negotiations with one company which would be announced once the process was successfully concluded.
In another development, Ms Monyane revealed that eight companies were locked in a contest over the mining of Polihali Alluvials.
These are Poone Diamonds, Mohloli Minerals and NRR, Brixs Developments JV Ecosolve, Ledi Taemane, Thagalu Mineral Resources and Data Metrics, Qetello Group Of Companies, Lemec as well as Perezial.