Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2018 was a productive mining year

By Bonnie Modiakgotla

There was a boon in mining production last year, as evidenced by the surge in mining production index on the back of increases across most mining sectors, revealed Statistics Botswana in the indices of the physical volume of mining production report for the fourth quarter of the year (Q4 2018).

The report released last week showed that the mining production index is up at 95.3 in the fourth quarter of 2018, representing year-on-year growth of 15.1 percent. On quarterly basis, the index increased 9.4 percent from 2018’s third quarter.

The growth in the index recorded in the last quarter of 2018 was due to diamond production increasing 15.4 percent compared to 2017’s fourth quarter.

Dr. Burton Mguni, the Statistician General, says the ramp up in production was a “result of planned strategy to produce high quality grade in response to trading conditions”. The quarter-on-quarter analysis reflects that diamond production shot up by 10.3 percent during Q4 2018 compared to the preceding quarter (Q3 2018).

Salt production soared in Q4 2018, up by 37.9 percent from 2017’s fourth quarter. There was also strong growth in production from quarter to quarter – with Q4 2018 production up by 36.6 from the third quarter.

Soda Ash production was up 9.4 percent during the fourth quarter compared to Q4 2017. Soda ash production has steadily increased over the past three consecutive quarters, and has benefitted from the plant’s high efficiency following plant refurbishment in 2017, Statistics Botswana said.

Gold production increased 5.1 percent in Q4 2018 from 2017’s corresponding period. A quarter-on-quarter comparison shows a larger increase in production, rising 8.7 percent from Q3 2018. The uptick in gold production was spurred by higher than expected recoveries from the ores despite reduced output from Mupane Gold ÔÇô the country’s only gold mine.

Copper in concentrates production plummeted in Q4 2018, marking a yearly decline of 26.2 percent from 2017’s last quarter. The decline was even steeper on quarterly basis – dropping by 75.2 percent between the third and last quarter of 2018. Statistics Botswana has attributed this to limited mining activities following the provisional liquidation that took place in 2015, with the mine yet to begin full-scale production

Coal production decreased by 2.4 percent in Q4 2018 compared to 2017’s production during the same quarter of the previous year. The quarter-on-quarter comparison reflects a slump of 17.2 percent.

Statistics Botswana data shows that Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte and Silver production recorded zero production during the period under review. Mowana mine, which was the only operating copper mine in the country, had a tough time last year ÔÇô missing production schedules due to equipment breakdown, and worsening financial position. The mine failed to pay its suppliers and employees in time, and ended up applying for provisional liquidation application at the high court.

“The instability and uncertainty of commodity prices had negatively affected the mines, therefore finding it difficult to sustain themselves at the current prices as a result leading to the provisional liquidation of the concerned companies,” the data agency revealed.

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