By Bonnie Modiakgotla
The Botswana government says it will wait until mid ÔÇô 2019 to know if it will continue with BCL liquidation or to keep the mine, the country’s ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security revealed to parliament last week Friday.
“We had set a deadline that by June 2019, we should be in a position to know whether we will continue with the liquidation or not and whether that mine is still worth anything and that work is continuing,” Minister Eric Molale told parliament.
BCL Group, made of BCL limited and Tati Nickel Mining Company, were placed in provisional liquidation by order of the High Court of Botswana on 9 October 2016. The Botswana government owns 100 percent of shares in BCL, and BCL’s wholly owned subsidiary, BCL Investments Pty Ltd, holds an 85 percent stake in Tati. The remainder of the shares in Tati is directly held by the Botswana government.
The government which happens to be also the main creditor has been pumping money into the liquidation process, spending over P1.1 billion towards BCL since its closure, with a larger proportion of the funds paying former employees’ benefits, and the rest towards the care and maintenance of the mines.
The decision to set the deadline was on the back of increasing concerns over the length of the liquidation, with government and Nigel Dixon-Warren, the liquidator, both claiming they do not know when the process will end, and the slightest hint from Dixon-Warren was it could take up to seven years, something which might have rubbed off government the wrong way.
“The reason I said the deadline was June 2019 is that, on my discussions with the liquidator, he had said and put timelines that probably would not be commensurate to the levels of expenditure of the care and maintenance. So, we believed that setting a deadline would be the best thing to do so that a final determination can be made at that point in time,” Molale said.
Dixon-Warren and Molale have now had a fallout following their last meeting on Wednesday 28, as the simmering tensions finally boiled over, with the minister telling parliament on Friday that relations between him and the liquidator have irretrievably broken down. Molale’s decision was influenced by Dixon-Warren who had retrenched the remaining care and maintenance workers as he cited cash shortages and the refusal of government to inject in more money.
However, Molale has described Dixon-Warren to be a truant liquidator who has defied his employer, the Registrar and Master of High Court, who had also at the said meeting asked the liquidator to reinstate the fired workers, something the liquidator is still yet to do. Molale told parliament that there is no way government can refuse to release funds for the upkeep of the mine, revealing that they are left with P250 million, and if it runs out it could always be replenished.
“I believe that the P250 million will carry us through that period at which point we should be in position now to pronounce and advise the government that we do not see any value in this, so, we are closing the mine completely or we do see value and there have been people bidding for the asset. So that is the situation as it is,” Molale said.