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Botswana lifts ban on new coal prospecting permits

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Botswana President Ian Khama said on Tuesday the country was lifting a moratorium on new prospecting licences for coal, coal-bed methane and related minerals following the completion of a study of the country’s coal potential.

The ban was issued in June 2011 as the country embarked on the study meant to develop a blueprint on how to manage and optimise benefits from its untapped coal reserves.

Speaking at a coal conference in Gaborone, Khama said the ban, which was meant to curb speculation, would be lifted immediately.

“The recently completed study highlighted a number of areas which require immediate attention for Botswana to develop her coal resources. With these amendments to the licensing regime, the moratorium imposed is lifted with immediate effect,” Khama said.

The permit regime is being overhauled to ensure licences are issued to individuals or companies with adequate resources to prospect and develop mines and associated infrastructure.

Sparsely-populated Botswana is heavily dependent on diamonds and is keen to diversify its economy against the backdrop of a renewed scramble in Africa for resources like coal, driven by surging demand from Asia.

The coal roadmap study suggested Botswana has the capacity and potential to produce up to 90 million tonnes per year of coal for export with the bulk of it earmarked for the Asian market, particularly India and China.

The government is currently studying the feasibility of building a new railway way line for coal exports, either through Namibia or Mozambique.

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