MCM in 1973, the picture shows the Box Cut and Part of the Plant.
Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) is located on the outskirts of Palapye, Botswana, along the Serowe-Palapye road. MCM started production in 1973 as an Anglo American Corporation subsidiary with the main objective of to supplying coal to the then Bamangwato Concessions Limited mine (now BCL) and BPC power plant situated in Selebi Phikwe.
The history of coal discovery in Botswana dates back to the early 1930’s when a major coal seam was discovered through sinking of boreholes. In the course of digging boreholes, coal seams were found in the common coal bearing rocks in Africa through the Ecca series of the Karoo system. The Morupule area is underlain by Karoo sedimentary rocks which form the Eastern margin of the major Karoo basin developed to the West of Morupule. These sedimentary rocks consist of shales, coals, and sandstones of the middle and lower Ecca. According to the 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, Botswana has massive coal reserves in the eastern part of the country with 40 million tons of proven recoverable reserves. The untapped reserves are in the greater Morupule fields of eastern Botswana. The Anglo American Corporation (AAC) was given a mining lease in 1966, and developed a colliery at the Morupule coalfield, which opened in 1973.
The corporation then began investigations on the quality and the availability of local and international markets. The AAC later pleaded with Botswana government to assist in finding markets for coal and also support generation of electricity from coal. The Corporation advised the government to consider the cost of setting up a new colliery or importing coal from South Africa for electricity generation, or importing electricity from South Africa.
Since the government of newly independent Botswana wanted to reduce its dependence on South Africa and to establish its economic development it ended up setting up the Morupule Colliery mine.
Excavation of coal at the Morupule coalfield commence in 1972. A box cut was excavated by contractors as the first underground mining planned later converted to an opencast operation. By the end of the year the coal zone was exposed. In 1973 Anglo American Corporation was granted another mining license for “coking coal” over a larger area in the eastern and southern Botswana. Shell Coal Botswana (Pty) Ltd was granted a coal prospecting license, and commenced operations in the Central blocks, west of Morupule. Good progress was achieved by means of open hole drilling and the use of a down-the-hole logging technique. Large coal resources were outlined at depth, but they did not occur near the surface, thus ruling out open cast mining.
1973: MCM’s first complete plant.
The main customers then were Botswana Power Corporation and Bamangwato Concession Limited (BCL). BCL smelter consumed 42% of the coal and the Botswana power corporation (BPC) 55%. The consumption by BPC was divided between the Selibe Phikwe and Gaborone Power Stations, as 35% and 20% respectively. The Gaborone Power Station was the biggest in the country. Between 1970 and 1972 the Gaborone Power Station used coal to fire its generators, and Gaborone’s growth made BPC an important MCM consumer. Beginning in 1972 BPC met increased demand for electricity by extending its diesel usage and heavy furnace fuel. The trend towards burning oil products was caused by the relatively cheaper cost of oil than coal, given the quantity of energy produced and the readily available oil-fired stations equipment’s. As of 1973, less than half of the electricity produced by the Gaborone Power Station (which also supplied to Lobatse), came from coal-fired boilers. However, as a consequence of the fuel crisis in 1973, the Government instructed the BPC to consider switching to coal. Earlier plans of installing diesel generating sets, scheduled for 1977 and 1979 to meet an expected increase demand, were abandoned. The Colliery production steadily increased and finally picked up in 1986 when a new Morupule power station was opened next to the mine by then buying coal at P7, 38t per ton.
MCM Mining Lease and Project Areas
The total inferred inventory coal within the MCM mining lease area is approximately 12 billion tonnes. At current mining rates MCM has +1,000 years of reserves.