By Phiwa Sikhondze
The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, Dr Tambo Gina, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Eswatini has revealed that the Eswatini mining and quarrying sub-sector, which mainly consists of coal mining, grew by 46.5 percent in 2023.
The sector was boosted by an acceleration in coal production, which reached a record high of 128,815 metric tonnes in the third quarter of 2023, more than double the average quarterly volumes recorded in the first half of 2022.
The remarkable surge in coal production was attributed to the mining of high-yielding crown land following the awarding of two mining licenses in 2022, as well as the re-opening of previously discontinued shafts.
The coal industry also benefited from the increased demand for coal in the region, especially from South Africa, which faced continued load-shedding issues.
The Statement by the Minister notes that the outlook for the mining and quarrying sub-sector in 2024 is positive, with projected growth, driven by sustained coal production, more coal mining activities to be commenced, and the commencement of iron ore mining at the Ngwenya Mine.
“The sub-sector’s performance also depends on the stability of the regional power supply and the global coal prices. The sub-sector is projected to average 5.6 percent in the medium term which is between 2025 and 2026.”
Despite the massive surge in the mining and quarrying sub-sector, the Statement still noted a drag in the primary sector due to the performance of the agriculture and forestry sub-sector. The primary sector declined by 6.8 percent in 2023, worse than the -2.9 percent projected previously.
The agriculture and forestry sub-sector suffered from droughty conditions in the 2022/23 planting season, which negatively affected rain-fed crops, especially cotton, which saw a 45.1 percent drop in production. The sub-sector also faced above-normal rains in the latter part of 2023, which reduced sugarcane yields due to increased cloud cover and harvesting of young cane.