* First 300 MW power plant to be completed mid-2015
* Firm to mine 2.5 million tonnes of coal annually
* Total energy projects expected to cost $2 billion
HARARE, Sept 4 Chinese-backed China Africa
Sunlight Energy said it will begin work early next year on a 600
MW coal-fired electricity plant in western Zimbabwe, part of $2
billion of energy projects in the power-starved southern African
The company, a 50-50 joint venture between China's Shandong
Taishan Sunlight and locally owned Old Stone Investments, has
concluded coal exploration in Gwayi, near Zimbabwe's second city
of Bulawayo, and mining will start in November.
Charles Mugari, general manager of China Africa Sunlight
Energy, told Reuters on Wednesday the company had discovered 4
billion tonnes of coal reserves after exploration and would mine
at a rate of 2.5 million tonnes a year.
"Early next year we will start the construction of the 600
megawatt power station and hope that by mid-2015 the first plant
of 300 megawatt will be running," Mugari said, adding the final
300 MW plant would be commissioned at the end of 2015.
Zimbabwe has a peak electricity demand of 2,100 MW but is
able to produce only 1,200 MW, with another 300 MW coming from
imports, mainly from neighbouring Mozambique.
The country's state power company ZESA warned consumers on
Wednesday that electricity cuts would deepen as imports will
fall to 50 MW from next week, when Mozambique's Hydro Cahorra
Bassa plant starts annual maintenance.
ZESA will also start maintenance of its local generating
plants next week, worsening the electricity shortages.
China is speeding ahead with projects worth tens of billions
of dollars to electrify Africa.
Mugari said his company was also exploring for methane gas
in Gwayi, which it would use for domestic consumption and
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by David Evans)