A South African mining company, Tumagole Consortium, says it is committed to investing R55 billion into the coal-bed methane mining project in Lupane. Tumahole Consortium officials, led by South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mphakama Mbete, paid a courtesy call on Vice President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday.
The company -- which has started working on the project under a non-binding contract -- said if it got a binding contract, it would invest more.
Ambassador Mbete told journalists after the meeting that his country was keen on signing mining deals with Zimbabwe.
"The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with Vice President Chiwenga possible further investment with Zimbabwe in the mining area. Today, we have brought a company called Tumahole Consortium to meet the Vice President. They are into mining," he said.
Natural gas reserves were discovered in the Lupane-Lubimbi area, Matabeleland North Province, a few decades ago, but commercial exploitation has not taken off.
Exploration and pilot production works have since been conducted and proved that the resource can be exploited commercially for domestic and industrial use.
Tumagole Consortium representative Mr Thapelo Tshephe said his company was ready to inject up to R55 billion into the Lupane gas project. He said the company intends to invest R100 million in the first two years.
"It is a very good project if we can be given the binding contract. We will be able to roll out at least R100 million in the next two years, although the total investment is about R55 billion.
"We already have commitments from South African banks. We will also get technical support from big companies like Sassol," he said.
Mr Tshephe said Tumagole had started working on the project in anticipation of getting a binding contract.
"The meeting with VP Chiwenga was in line with the CBM project in the area of Lupane. We have already done some work there but we now need a binding contract," said Mr Tshepe. "We will be able to supply gas to nine neighbouring countries. It will help Zimbabwe to become independent in terms of supply of electricity and petrol."
Ambassador Mbete said Zimbabwe and South Africa were in talks on how to strengthen cooperation in all areas of development.
"Talks began as early as last December, on Boxing Day, between the finance ministers of both countries and governors of the two's reserve banks.
"The talks started about possible cooperation between the two countries and it is important to note that the ministers and the governors met at the instructions of the two Presidents.
"The talks are sensitive and very strategic. So we will inform the world and the media as progress comes. They are so sensitive that at this moment, they are only being handled at the level of the ministers," he said.