Botswana plans to reopen liquidated copper mine

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - The Botswana government has revealed that plans are underway to re-open the liquidated state-owned BCL copper mine.

BCL mine was closed in 2016, resulting in more than 5,000 people losing their jobs.

The Minister Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale, confirmed the re-opening of the mine this week. He could not commit to timeframes, but indicated that re-opening of the mine would be “very soon”.

Molale said while the government does not have enough funds to sustain the mine, the intention is to have the private sector salvage what is left of the BCL mine after the liquidation process is over. He also noted that the mine was bleeding the government purse and that is why they had to go the liquidation route.

Parliamentarians recently reacted with anger after Molale revealed that BCL's liquidation has so far cost more than US$100 million, with the liquidator and his team paid an average of US$220,000 per month. The legislators were also incensed by Molale’s revelations that takeover partners were yet to be identified and that the liquidator had projected that the whole process could take up to seven years.

Established in 1956, the BCL mine employed 4,406 workers who have now lost their jobs. Six of them committed suicide, according to Joseph Molambane, chairperson of the Botswana Mineworkers Union’s Selebi Phikwe branch. Most of the others have returned to their home villages.

Molale said things are looking up for BCL mine, as there was an investor who was even willing to inherit the mine with its liabilities. The minister further said he cannot give the total cost of the re-opening of the mine. He, however, said the government has already paid more than one billion pula in BCL workers’ terminal benefits, school fees and others.

Media reports show that those in authority have held several meetings both in Gaborone and Selebi Phikwe (where the mine is based) while arrangements are at an advanced stage to reopen the mine.

Molale was scheduled to go to the mine for a site visit last week.

The closure of the BLC copper mine was not an isolated incident, as other copper mines in Botswana also bore the brunt of the commodity price rout. The copper and nickel industries have been decimated as a result of the BCL shutdown and the earlier closure of shafts owned by Discovery Metals, African Copper and Tati Nickel Mining. Together they accounted for about 4.5% of Botswana’s exports in the first half of the year.

 

 

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