ZIMBABWE plans to conduct a full exploration of its gas deposits in a bid to establish the quantum of the key resource before engaging potential investors.
Top United States firm, General Electric and some local firms are thought to be keen on conducting the exploration and consequently exploiting the critical resource which has potential to transform lives.
Coal-bed methane or natural gas occurs in Matabeleland North province mainly in Hwange-Binga-Lupane area as well as the south east Lowveld in Chiredzi.
While fielding questions from the media during the launch of the Zimbabwe National Industrial Policy last Friday, Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu confirmed the development.
"That is a Ministry of Mines issue but just to highlight the issues that happened when we were in Mozambique . . . we thought it was important that we do full exploration on our LPG (liquefied petroleum) gas so that we know the resource which we have and this will better guide Government as we negotiate for any investments that are coming through.
"There was an indication that GE (General Electric) will take interest but we also have local players who are indicating that they could assist us with that," said Minister Ndlovu.
Natural gas can be used for heating and cooking, industrial uses in electricity generation and production of chemicals such as ammonia based fertilisers.
GE, whose officials met Zimbabwe's delegation led by President Mnangagwa during the 12th US-Africa Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, is expected to send a strong team of staffers to Harare this month as the company steps up efforts to source investment opportunities.
The US firm, which is involved in energy, rail services, aviation and healthcare sectors, has been awarded the tender for the US$4,2 billion Batoka Hydropower Plant being undertaken by Zimbabwe and Zambia. GE is working on the 2 400MW power project with China Power.
The company executive director (government affairs and policy for Southern Africa) Ms Lerato Molebatsi told The Sunday Mail yesterday that GE staffers destined for Harare will meet officials from the Ministries of Health and Child Care, and Energy and Power Development.
"Discussions are ongoing with various Government ministries, including the Ministries of Health and the Ministry of Energy. We are not yet at a stage where we can talk about specific projects as discussions are still taking place, but we are hopeful that the projects we are looking at can be announced soon," she said.
"We will be in Zimbabwe in July for meetings with various ministries on several projects that have been put on the table. You may know that we have shown interest in the Batoka project and we continue to look at a number of other projects and partnerships with other developers. So, I will be in Zimbabwe mid-July with a few colleagues and it is only after then that we can discuss more about substantive issues."
After meeting GE officials in Maputo, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the conglomerate "is very serious about investing in Zimbabwe". GE is a multinational firm valued at US$120 billion. It has been operating in Africa for over 100 years.