Monday, January 17, 2022

BOTASH bemoans collapse of Palapye glass project

Botswana Ash (BOTASH) managing director Montwedi Mpathi, has expressed his disappointment over the collapse of the Palapye Fengyue Glass Project saying it has dealt his mine a huge blow.

Fengyue Glass Company, a controversial Chinese company had partnered with the government investment arm, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) in 2007 to establish a glass manufacturing plant in Palapye.

The company has since been liquidated after the project was not completed. BDC lost almost half a billion Pula in the project that would have created hundreds of jobs producing approximately 450 tonnes tonnes of float glass per day.

In an interview with The Telegraph last week on the sidelines of the National Inter Mine First Aid Games hosted by BOTASH, Mpathi said that before the project collapsed, negotiations were at an advanced stage with the mine to supply the company with soda ash which is used to manufacture glass.

“The collapse of this project dealt a huge blow to us as a soda ash mining company because negotiations were at an advanced stage for us to supply them with soda ash. We had already negotiated with the management of the company and a proposal was sealed for us to supply them with soda ash. We were planning to at least supply them with 30 000 tonnes of soda ash annually.

We had included the deal in our budget,” he said.

Soda ash is used as flux to reduce the melting point in the process of glass manufacturing. BOTASH currently produces 250 000 to 300 000 tonnes of soda ash annually.

He said that the Fengyue Glass Project was going to provide them with a viable market for their product. He also said that it was going to be cost efficient in terms of transport costs unlike their current market in South Africa.

“South Africa is currently the main buyer for our soda ash and the main challenge we are facing is the transport costs that we incur as you are aware that soda ash is a low value commodity,” Mpathi said.

He said that they currently use Botswana Railways and Transnet to transport the soda ash to South Africa. He however said that the tonne per km charge that Transnet charges in South Africa is very expensive compared to Botswana Railways charges.

As part of their expansion plan, Mphathi said that they are currently embarking on a joint venture with a Canadian Company, Great Quest Metals and they want to set up a factory in Botswana for production of potash fertilizer that is used in agriculture. He said Potash can be produced from one of the brines that they produce at BOTASH mine. He said that they are looking at producing the product mainly for the African countries.

“We are currently doing a feasibility study on the project and the move is part of our plans of expansion as BOTASH. This is going to be the biggest project of its kind in Africa and we are hopeful that the project is going to be successful,” he said.

Mpathi added that they have also found a new market in Zambia which they intend to supply with soda ash.

“This is a small market as we are planning to supply 700 tonnes per month or at least over 7 000 tonnes per year of soda ash,” he added.

He said that the biggest challenge they are facing is lack of markets.

“What is giving us hope is that there is a rise in the demand for our products and new markets are slowly emerging,” he said in conclusion.

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