SELEBI-PHIKWE: BCL, the copper-nickel miner, is adamant that it will continue operations beyond 2013 whilst providing time for diversification for the town to continue without mining.
General Manager at BCL, Montwedi Mphathi, said that they are hopeful to continue operation beyond the anticipated end of life span, more especially because EU support to help revive the mining town.
He said they are now expanding resources and expect to go beyond 2013.
He was speaking during a visit by Heads of Mission of EU Member States represented in Botswana to the Economic Diversification of the Mining Sector (EDMS) Programme here on Wednesday.
Mphathi explained that the Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) studies that are also being carried out are helpful in that they have since found a way to reduce sulphur dioxide production from their operations.
“From the studies we are also continuing to look at what we can do to reduce the impacts of our products on the environment,” he said.
Since Selebi Phikwe town was established in the 1970s, it has always been dependant on BCL mine, and the need for diversification is critical to diversify the economy of the town away from dependence on mining to ensure its long term survival.
The study on the diversification of the economy of Selebi Phikwe was since undertaken with funding from the EU, which aimed at finding innovative and sustainable ways of diversifying the economy of Selebi Phikwe and its region away from mining.
Steve Jones, technical advisor on the Economic Diversification in the Mining Sector Project told The Telegraph that in 2004 the Economic Diversification in the Mining Sector project was started with funding from the EU, which included the diversification in Selebi Phikwe by bringing in more industries such as tourism, manufacturing, horticulture and agriculture.
“There are tourism opportunities around the area but at the moment there are no specific projects committed but there are some being discussed,” he revealed.
He pointed out that for the project to be effective, they are working with all the relevant authorities.
“We are working hand in hand with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Botswana Tourism Board and the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.”
He explained that the implications of the closure of Phikwe mines in the absence of a diversification programme would be severe.
“Loss of employment would affect many, social effects would grow, thus a growth in crime, disruption of families and the growth of low-wage, informal employment. The town would also lose its accumulated assets of skilled personnel.”
He further noted that if no immediate action is taken, businesses and skilled individuals will start to leave the town even before mine closure, and politically, the government and local council will face serious criticism if Selebi Phikwe became a “ghost town” this would damage Botswana’s image.
In addition, he noted that the project was also a way of assisting BCL and Tati mines to continue mining for public benefits.
“Various studies have since been carried out by SPEDU in relation to the diversification to see what industry opportunities might affect the diversification and solutions to them,” he said.