BENEDICT TEMBO, Sinazongwe
MAAMBA Collieries Limited (MCL) chief executive officer Rear Shankar (retired) is committed to seeing his company contribute to the well-being of Sinazongwe beyond the generation of thermal power.
MCL, for a long time a coal producer, has added value to coal the mine has been producing by producing 300 megawatts of thermal power.
MCL’s commercial operations of the plants started in December 2016, and contributed to mitigating load-shedding in Zambia by four hours.
Out of the 300MW, 260MW is sold to Zesco for use in the national grid.
Mr Shankar says MCL is considering venturing into the second phase of the project whose preparatory work has already started.
“We should finalise soon, we need to make sure this project [phase one] is financially successful. Financial arrangements with Zesco [which purchases the power] must be improved,” he says.
While MCL has been billing Zesco on time, the power utility has not been paying promptly and Mr Shankar wants this delay resolved before venturing into the second phase of the thermal generation project.
“We already have auxiliaries and infrastructure, what we built in phase one is enough to cater for phase two,” Mr Shankar says.
Among the infrastructure in place is the pump house at Lake Kariba which transports water 48 kilometres to the plant as well as the 199 towers which are capable of handling phase two as well.
Mr Shankar says actual construction of the second thermal power plant and commissioning will not take long.
The plant uses about 4,500 tonnes of coal per day when at full capacity while the mine has two million tonnes of coal in stock.
Apart from the state-of-the-art thermal- fired plant, MCL, which produces 500,000 tonnes of coal daily, supplies the commodity to Dangote and Lafarge, two of the country’s biggest cement manufacturers.
Of the 500,000 tonnes, 30,000 is high -grade coal while the rest is low-grade used in the thermal power plant.
Mr Shankar, while focusing on the core business of the mine, also has an eye on the Maamba community whose welfare he wants to improve.
He has taken note of the ravaged road infrastructure, especially in Maamba township, and MCL intends to intervene.
“We are now taking up the cost of full repairs for township roads,” Mr Shankar says.
The company had gone on the open market to get quotations for the rehabilitation of the roads. The cost is, however, astronomical.
Mr Shankar says MCL issued tenders for road rehabilitation in Maamba township but quotations for the work from construction companies were astronomical.
MCL has made a conscious decision to undertake the road project in-house.
The company is in the process of procuring state-of-the-art road construction equipment from South Africa.
MCL already has a hot mixer asphalt plant which it will deploy in road resurfacing works.
Recently, MCL was involved in the construction of a diversion when a section of the Maamba-Batoka road got washed away by heavy rains about 43 kilometres from Batoka and cut off most of Sinazongwe district from the rest of the country.
MCL worked closely with the Zambia National Service (ZNS) in creating a diversion road.
Mr Shankar’s announcement to repair the roads ties in well with the expectations of James Chinene, a former miner, who says people waited for the investment at MCL to come through and want the economy of Maamba revived.
“I hope Nava Bharat [Ventures Limited (NBV), owners of Maamba mine] will improve roads. And life will come back to normal in the community,” Mr Chinene, a retiree who is yet to get his terminal benefits, says.
Mr Chinene, who worked for MCL from 1981 to 1998, expects MCL to create employment opportunities and enhance purchasing power.
MCL has initiated the rehabilitation of Kanzinze Stadium, the home of Maamba Diggers Football Club who have been promoted to Division One, by erecting a tank for watering of the pitch, but dressing rooms are yet to be attended to.
While Mr Shankar has passion for the welfare of the players, the reality on the ground is different as players, most of whom are not employed, have no other source of income and have neither contracts nor entitlement to upkeep allowances.
Their only source of income is the K100 winning bonus.
This has made Diggers, which has produced, among other international players, Toaster Nsabata and Spencer Sautu, become a nursery for well-paying clubs.
Others are Edmund Mumba (late) and Honour Janza.
“We feel happy about the contribution to Zambian football but we should see more of these (production of quality players). There is need for an academy to groom the players. There is talent here,” he says.
Mr Chinene says players should be trained and appointed as mechanics if Diggers are to regain the lost glory.
“Zamcoal Diggers was one of the best clubs. [Players] should have something to hold on to,” Mr Chinene, a former official at the club, says.
“As CEO [chief executive officer], for every win, there is cash bonus. Everything is done,” Mr Shankar says.
The company runs a junior soccer competition in Sinazongwe to tap talent for Diggers.
MCL has also rehabilitated the Maamba Golf Club and supports the golfers, including sponsoring the Maamba Open, a fixture on the Zambia Golf Union calendar.
Mr Shankar says MCL has refurbished the dis-used sports complex which comprises a gym hall, tennis and squash clubs, but members of the community want the stadium and swimming pool also rehabilitated.
Among other corporate social responsibility projects MCL has undertaken include donating a generator to the Maamba School for the Disadvantaged.
It also runs a Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) accredited institute where metal fabrication and power electrical are taught.
MCL advertises names of students who successfully complete the courses in its widely circulated in-house magazine as a way of helping them find employment.
Well before the power plant was constructed, MCL had a policy of Zambians taking over the critical operations of the thermal plant.
In this vein, the company trained 31 technicians and engineers at Maamba and later sent them to India.
They have since been absorbed in the power plant as junior and assistant engineers.
“Our aim is that we will be constantly taking young engineers so that key positions in the power plant will be held by Zambians. Our aim is to slowly reduce the expatriates so that Zambians take on the responsibilities,” he said of the plant which has 100 engineers.
In conjunction with Monze Diocese, the company resettled 61 families who were affected during the construction of the water pipeline from Lake Kariba.
“Anyone who lost a hut, we have built a house,” Mr Shankar says.
A clinic has also been built in the area.
Through the Maamba Development Trust, MCL has been implementing livelihood restoration programmes for the past five years.
This was before the company switched on its power plant.
MCL runs two schools – a private school and a community school.
Mr Shankar says other CSR activities have seen the company construct footbridges at the main market and at Sipuumina stream, which cut off residents of Sipuumina village and other community members that live across the hills as well as schoolchildren and teachers of Siankodobbo school.
Communities there had serious challenges crossing the flooded stream during the rainy season.
MCL has also been a community player by supporting traditional ceremonies in chiefs Mweemba and Sinazongwe’s communities.
The company runs the ‘Keep Maamba Clean’ campaign to ensure that the mine township is hygienically sound all the time.
“We are now in the process of donating a tipper truck and buck hole to Sinazongwe District Council to help them with refuse collection,” Mr Shankar says.
Mr Chinene has acknowledged the changes made to the Maamba community by MCL but wants more from Bharat.
The first thermal power plant unit at MCL was inaugurated by President Lungu on August 7, 2016. Unit 1 was synchronised with the national grid in July 2016, followed by unit 2.