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LUSAKA (Reuters) – London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc and two other firms have been shortlisted to operate Zambia’s key coal mine and to construct a thermal power station, owners of the mine said on Monday.

Power demand in the mineral-rich southern African country of 12 million people has risen due to new mines and industrial plants, but supply has been unable to grow apace.

Diversified miner Vedanta Resources Plc, Nava Bharat of Singapore and Aldwych International are competing to operate the Maamba Collieries Ltd., which produced around 600,000 tonnes of coal during peak output in the 1980s, the ZCCM-Investments Holdings (ZCCM-IH) said.

The ZCCM-IH issued an international tender in 2007, asking foreign firms to submit bids for the revamping of Maamba Collieries operations and also for construction of a major coal-powered thermal power station that would supply power to the country’s vast copper and cobalt mines, officials say.

“ZCCM-IH advises that the three pre-qualified bidders will now be requested to submit their best and final offers for consideration,” the ZCCM-IH said in a statement.

Ten local and foreign firms were initially on the shortlist but this has been narrowed to three, the ZCCM-IH said. The selected bidder would construct a power station and to invest in Maamba Collieries as a strategic equity partner.

Vedanta Resources, is the majority owner of the Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Zambia’s largest copper producer.

In April, ZCCM Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) said it would inject $12 million into operations of the Maamba Collieries Ltd. as it sought a permanent equity partner.

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

Official data shows that Maamba Collieries has 78 million tonnes known coal reserves to last over 70 years while the mine has capacity to produce up to one million tones of coal a year.

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