If properly harnessed and nurtured, Botswana has potential to generate at least P3 billion annually from base metals beneficiation and in turn create over 100, 000 jobs. In an interview after the second base metals beneficiation forum in Francistown attended mainly by the country’s mining houses’ executives, an upbeat Botswana Chamber of Mines Executive Director Charles Siwawa disclosed that base metals beneficiation sector has potential to inject no less than P3 billion yearly into the local economy. Without pre-empting the results of a consultancy that was engaged to undertake a pre-feasibility study on base metals beneficiation, Siwawa could not however hide his excitement that once fully fledged, the industry has potential to massively boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by injecting at least P3 billion into the country overall mining GDP and entire economy.
He said upon take off of the base metals beneficiation process, not less than 100 000 jobs are expected to be created. To drive his point home, he said the industry will have the potential to employ the whole of Francistown population which according to the 2011 population census stood at about 109 000 people. Worley Parsons Consultancy was contracted by the Botswana government to look into the viability of setting up a refinery in the country. Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila told the forum delegates that Worley Parsons was selected through a bidding process to look into the viability of setting up a refinery in the country.
“The project started in July 2015 and is expected to be complete by December 2015. The time has come for the consultant to update stakeholders on progress on the aforesaid pre-feasibility project” said the minister. Mokaila said explained that the base metals beneficiation forum that was held in Maun in July 2014 deliberated on the terms of reference (TORS) for the Pre-Feasibility Study and how to move forward with the development and implementation. A task force was formed with the objective of establishing the potential ‘sufficiency and longevity’ of resources to warrant and support local beneficiation of base metals. “In the preparation of an engagement of consultancy services, the Task Force examined the available base metals resources information and refining technology. Part of the preliminary outcomes indicated that the minimum required tonnage of 100 000 tonnes of copper in concentrate is achievable considering the current operations and envisaged projects (discovery Metal’s ÔÇô 36 000 tonnes, African Copper – 14 000 tonnes, Khoemacau ÔÇô 50 000 tonnes”, said Mokaila.
He further explained that having established the Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCM) in 2013 to effectively manage government investments in mining, government is now in the process of transferring its assets in mining companies to MDCM. “If the results of the prefeasibility study can prove the base-metals refinery project to be viable in Botswana, the government may consider acquiring a stake in it through MDCB. It would be prudent for the mining companies and financiers to start thinking about the possible opportunities that could be presented by the refinery project and how they position themselves”, said Mokaila.
The minister added that government continues with its commitment to support the mining industry and pave way for a sustainable base metals beneficiation industry, through provision of the necessary infrastructure like grid power, roads, and water. “In this regard, the 600MW Morupule B coal fired station is in commercial operation phase with the operation and maintenance (O&M) services including capacity building (BPC staff training on-going. The Defects Notification Period (DNP) of the project is scheduled to end in June 2016”, explained the minister In addition Mokaila said preparatory works to return Morupule A power station to production commenced at the end of September 2015 and three units (90MW) are scheduled to be back in service by the end of October 2016 and the last unit (30MW) end of October 2017.
A preferred supplier for the Independent Power Provider (IPP) power station next to the Morupule B station is at the verge of being identified, with the hope that it will be up and running by the end of 2018.