Kiwira coal mine grinds to a halt: Workers growing disgruntled as, suddenly, investors nowhere to be seen THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam INVESTORS in the controversial, formerly state-owned Kiwira Coal Mine in Mbeya Region are reported to have all but abandoned the project, leaving about 500 workers without salaries or management, THISDAY has learnt. According to the reports, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that the workers are now on an extended go-slow, awaiting news on when they may expect to be paid salary arrears stretching back 10 months. Sources from within the workers community at the mine confirmed that the mine is now in a deplorable condition, all coal mining activities have stopped, and the workers are just marking time for the time being, ostensibly waiting for the investors to show up. Even the boilers, which were once used to produce electricity when the mine was still in government hands, have started to rust, so that not even a small amount of electricity can be produced now, a source told THISDAY. The workers are still here at the mine, doing menial jobs like cutting grass, because they do not want to leave without receiving their rightful payment dues for all the years they have worked here. If one leaves, he forfeits all his dues, the source said. The reports are the latest development in a long-running saga regarding the future of the previously state-owned mine following its dubiously-executed 2005 privatization and takeover by TANPOWER Resources Limited, a private company whose senior shareholders included and continue to include close relatives of the then president Benjamin Mkapa and then energy and minerals minister Daniel Yona. And when contacted for comment on the latest situation at the mine yesterday, the long-serving TANPOWER Resources Chief Executive Officer Francis Kabalo made it known that he was no longer an employee of the company. I dont work for that company any more. So I dont know anything about what is going on down there (at the mine), Kabalo said curtly over the phone. According to our sources, the mine workers are growing more and more disgruntled by the day, and are now wondering why the government is taking so long to present its official stand on the issue of the mines future. Narrated one source: Sometime last year, we had a visitation to the mine from the parliamentary energy and minerals committee (chaired by William Shelukindo). They seemed to be sympathetic to our plight, especially when we told them about not being paid our salaries for so long. We thought they would go back to Dar es Salaam or wherever, and do something. But nothing ever came out of it. It is understood that the workers are even harbouring serious nostalgic thoughts of the days when the mine was still a government property. In those days, we were paid every month, we had food, we had clothes, our children went to school without any problems, the sources recalled. According to previous THISDAY findings, an unnamed Israeli company was at one point all set to enter into partnership with TANPOWER Resources to implement their end of a lucrative, 271m/- contract with the state-owned Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) for the supply of 200 megawatts of coal-fired electricity into the national power grid. Under the terms of the contract, this power was supposed to have become available in stages from last year. However, nothing has been forthcoming so far. It is however, understood that after initially showing interest to pump money into the project, the Israeli company has since decided that such an investment would be too risky given the cloud of controversy surrounding the project and in particular the ethical justification of its links with ex-president Mkapa. Following the 2005 fast-track privatization exercise apparently engineered by Mkapa and Yona in their capacities as president and minister responsible for minerals at the time, TANPOWER Resources now holds 85 per cent of shares in the Kiwira mine, with the government retaining just 15 per cent shares.