Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) is located on the outskirts of Palapye, Botswana, along the Serowe-Palapye road. MCM started production in 1973 as an Anglo American Corporation subsidiary with the main objective of to supplying coal to the then Bamangwato Concessions Limited mine (now BCL) and BPC power plant situated in Selebi Phikwe. MCM ownership was transferred to Debswana Diamond Company in 2000 when Anglo disinvested its operations in Botswana. In 2016, the De Beers interest in MCM (held under Debswana) was acquired by the Mineral Development Company of Botswana (MDCB).
The history of coal discovery in Botswana dates back to the early 1930’s when a major coal seam was discovered through sinking of boreholes. In the course of digging boreholes, coal seams were found in the common coal bearing rocks in Africa through the Ecca series of the Karoo system. The Morupule area is underlain by Karoo sedimentary rocks which form the Eastern margin of the major Karoo basin developed to the West of Morupule. These sedimentary rocks consist of shales, coals, and sandstones of the middle and lower Ecca. The Anglo American Corporation (AAC) was given a mining lease in 1966, and developed a colliery at the Morupule coalfield, which opened in 1973.
The main customers then were Botswana Power Corporation and Bamangwato Concession Limited (BCL). BCL smelter consumed 42% of the coal and the Botswana power corporation (BPC) 55%. The consumption by BPC was divided between the Selibe Phikwe and Gaborone Power Stations, as 35% and 20% respectively. The Gaborone Power Station was the biggest in the country. Between 1970 and 1972 the Gaborone Power Station used coal to fire its generators, and Gaborone’s growth made BPC an important MCM consumer. Beginning in 1972 BPC met increased demand for electricity by extending its diesel usage and heavy furnace fuel.
The trend towards burning oil products was caused by the relatively cheaper cost of oil than coal, given the quantity of energy produced and the readily available oil-fired stations equipment’s. As of 1973, less than half of the electricity produced by the Gaborone Power Station (which also supplied to Lobatse), came from coal-fired boilers. However, as a consequence of the fuel crisis in 1973, the Government instructed the BPC to consider switching to coal. Earlier plans of installing diesel generating sets, scheduled for 1977 and 1979 to meet an expected increase demand, were abandoned. The Colliery production steadily increased and finally picked up in 1986 when a new Morupule power station was opened next to the mine by then buying coal at P7, 38t per ton.