KONKOLA Deep Mine is reputed to be one of the wettest mines in the world pumping out more than 450,000 cubic meters of water per day. Paradoxically it is one of the largest electricity power consuming mines, paying a higher tariff than other consumers.
In the paradox may also lie the solution.
The Mines must be made to generate their own power using their own water and other resources at their disposal.
At the same time Zesco must emulate the mining dewatering technology to develop a viable recycling process to utilize the ever dwindling water resource instead of allowing it to flow to the Indian ocean.
There is no doubt that however much power Zesco will generate the ever growing mining industry will hoard it. The mines have a voracious appetite for power, and the more mines we open the more power they will consume.
In the circumstances, Zesco has no choice but give priority to our copper goose leaving the rest of us to share the deficit through load shedding.
It is therefore imperative that Zesco should learn to use its power to drive the huge water pumps that the mines recycle the water it uses than let it all flow downstream to the Indian ocean. This is not a new idea and may not be readily implemented because of the international water politics involved, but must be tried.
Countries downstream may indeed raise issues but they can reassured that recycling will still ensure a continuous flow, that they will not be deprived.
The suggestion is simple. Zambia has some of the wettest mines in the world and has the largest water bodies in the region. This resource should be used to our advantage rather than let it remain stagnant in the water vicinities they occur.
It is quite possible that Zesco may have considered these option which at the best of seasons would seem superfluous ad therefore unnecessary, but times have changed thereby creating the need for a creative approach to our resources- especially water which we have in abundance.
There is no doubt that inconsistent weather will continue to dog the sub region hence the need for innovative ways to manage our water resources.
There is no point criticizing Zesco for the low water levels. Zesco has no hand in determining the amount and quality of rain that feeds our rivers. The effects of global weather change are with us and will remain so for many years to come.
This is the lesson that people in California in the United States are learning. They have been suffering successive years of drought, leading to serious economic catastrophe to farmers who were renowned for their citrus production.
Nearer home in South Africa drought has wrought havoc to many communities. Their electricity company Eskom has introduced more stringent load shedding.
We still have a chance with abundant water, coal and solar energy. What is required is a consistent and well managed approach to create a movement towards change and innovation.
Our non-hydro resources are equally abundant, we should learn to use them more effectively. We may even succeed to export at greater benefit than the minerals which are a lasting resource.