BCL, the copper/nickel mine, is well on track to extend its lifespan by a further seven years, thanks to the ongoing underground exploration exercise, the company said Thursday.
The oldest copper/nickel mine founded in 1974 embarked on desperate moves to extend its life-span in late 2006 at the height of the global commodity prices by undertaking some underground exploration.
The mine, which is the life-blood of over 80,000 people in Selebi Phikwe and surrounding areas, started some underground explorations late last year, following an appeal by its Chief Executive Officer, Montwedi Mphathi, two years earlier.
“The geophysics Titan 24 survey preliminary report indicated a number of interesting targets. However, drilling of one of the targets produced poor results prompting the reinterpretation of results and engagement of geophysical specialist,” Mphathi told the annual Botswana Resource Sector Conference.
However, he said reports from independent contractors are still pending ÔÇô a move that has impacted negatively on the project progress.
BCL mine started in 1974 and operates four shafts which run tens of kilometers across the township.
Currently, the exploration is centered between shaft No.3 and Selebi.
Shaft No.3 runs for over twenty km, from the south-eastern side of the town up to Makhubu, while Selebi is from the same area but is running north.
The mine is rich in copper but has small deposits of nickelÔÇöone of the metals which is doing exceptionally well in the stainless steel hungry markets of China and the rest of the Asian markets.
That has kept the mine afloat since 2003 – when it last applied for shareholders’ bail-out.
Part of its success is being attributed to the industrious Mphathi whom, according to government enclave, “is a spectacular work-horse” who has beaten some expatriates who headed the mine before.
Since he took-over, he has managed to turn-around the mine by splashing in appropriate technology to keep the mine competitive against its peers in the southern African region.
At the time he took the reins, the mine was under intense speculation of being written off as it was expected to close by 2010. But that was not the first time for the mine to be too close to closure. Initially it was to shut down in the 1990s, but later the dates were shifted to 2004 and subsequently to 2006.
The new developments at the mine include the spending on concentrate ÔÇô by installing new large volume roughers cells and cleaner tankers, the smelter — and the use of computer laizers in its underground mining operations, which improves the precision to ore with matte and the improvement in the float. The developments also improved the distribution control system in the operation of the mine.
The move has resulted in the mine production reaching three million tons of ore that translates into 35,000 tons of metals.
According to the figures released at the Resource Sector Conference on Thursday the mine is expected to produce a further 53.4 million tonnes against the targeted 49.3 million tonnes that was needed to extend the life of the mineÔÇöresulting in life extension of seven years.