Mining companies bemoan power outages

Cement Products is struggling with power challenges to run its plant at Njereza in Mangochi

By Chrissy Fereciah NKUMBA

Mining companies have expressed concern over regular power outages in the country that have been exacerbated by the damage of power stations on the Shire River due to flooding as a result of very heavy rains mainly in the Southern Region caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy.

Coordinator for Malawi Chamber of Mines and Energy Grain Malunga says the power outages are resulting in low production of mining companies including those in cement and coal production, which are being forced to use stand by power from diesel generators.

Malunga advised Government to develop hydropower in other rivers such as Bua and Rukuru and implement energy mix including developing coal fired power stations.

“There is need to establish a Development Finance Institution with sizeable lines of credit to, among others, finance development of coal fired power stations by the private sector as Malawi has low capital base,” he said.

Concurring with Malunga, Chairman for Cement Products Aslam Gaffar also expressed concern over the power outages saying the situation is forcing them to use diesel power generators to run their plants, which is a very expensive option.

“The government has to substantially invest in power generation in order for the industry to grow, employ more people and invest more in corporate social responsibility to uplift the livelihoods of rural communities,” he said.

MD for Rukuru Coal Mine Bruno Klose also lamented the power outages saying they are affecting the mine’s operations.

“The power outages affect us as we use our stand by power but our operations do not stop because we are always prepared as we experience electricity supply interruptions regularly. Only this time is the longest period we have had no power so far. No mine in Malawi can run efficiently without independent power system.

He also agreed with Malunga and Gaffar on the need for Malawi to invest in more power generation projects and diversify energy sources.

“Thermal power generation has been touted by several quarters for some time. It is a possibility to investigate. Is it the best solution for Malawi? There is still sizeable hydropower potential and unlike thermal stations which are for base load, at least some of the hydropower projects like Mpatamanga are being designed to peak load which is what our country needs,” he said.

Asked if his company is interested in investing in a coal fired power plant, Klose said there are no such plans at the moment as his company as focused at only supplying the growing local industry with quality coal from Malawi as currently half of coal consumed by the local industry is produced locally.

Malawi has been experiencing prolonged power outages following the damages caused by the cyclone which forced Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) to stop generating power at some power stations including Nkula and Tedzani.

The heavy rains also resulted in the destruction of other power transmission equipment including power lines which forced the Electricity Supply Corporation (Escom) to cut off supply to affected areas.

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