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images.jpgBy Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Thirty foreign and local companies have tendered for shares in Zambia’s major coal supplier to its copper mines, a senior industry official said on Wednesday.

Joseph Chikolwa, chief executive officer of ZCCM Investments Holdings, which wholly owns the Maamba Collieries Ltd mine, said tenders would close on March 28.

“We do not have a fixed percentage to give to the successful bidder but we have decided to leave it open for negotiation with the successful bidder depending on the value they are going to add to Maamba Collieries,” Chikolwa told Reuters.

“In terms of the response, we have had over thirty interested parties expressing interest to submit proposals so we can say the response has been very good.”

He declined to name the companies.

ZCCM Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) plans to inject $12 million into operations of the Maamba Collieries Ltd. as it seeks permanent equity partners.

Maamba produced about 600,000 tonnes of coal per year in the 1980s, but years of undercapitalisation have led to a fall in production.

Maamba mine has seen production slump in recent years due to undercapitalization and operational losses.

The companies also hope to invest in construction of a 300-350 megawatt station to power the facility, said Chikolwa.

Power demand in the southern African country has been boosted by several new mines and industrial plants.

Maamba Collieries has 78 million known coal reserves to last over 70 years while the coal mine has capacity to produce up to one million tones of coal per year, officials say.

“The coal at Maamba can be used to help solve the power deficit the country and the (southern Africa) region is currently facing,” said Chikolwa.

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