Botswana Ash Company (BOTASH) is currently advancing efforts to diversify its products. The company which produces soda ash and salt is already looking at manufacturing fertilizers such as potash and phosphorus. The revelation was made by BOTASH Managing Director, Montwedi Mphathi in an interview with The Telegraph last week on the sidelines of the Excellency Awards held by the organization in Sua Pan.
“Our next step is packaging salt by next year which is part of our diversification drive. We also want to produce potash and phosphorus fertilizers and we will be the first producer in the country. Efforts are at advanced stage,” he said.
Mphathi said although the mining sector is faced with challenges, he is confident that BOTASH operations will stand the test of time. He further revealed that their huge market of Soda Ash and salt is in Southern Africa.
Established in 1991, BOTASH is jointly owned by the Botswana government and Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group, a South African company, at 50% shareholding each. The company is the largest producer of natural sodium products, producing soda ash and salt in Southern African region. The company currently produces 290 000 tonnes of Soda Ash and 420 000 tonnes of salt per annum.
Mphathi said that BOTASH is not really a mine but more of a manufacturing factory. He said that they are currently waiting for approval from government to be classified as a manufacturing company. He said such a move is advantageous as the tax is lower.
“That process is still yet to be finalized. In order to implement this, BOTASH needs to first exit the tax agreement which requires Parliament’s approval of the change. All stakeholders agree that this should happen and all preparatory work has been completed but progress has been held back by delays in the approval process for some time. We hope a way can be found to bring closure to the issue soon,” he said
He was however adamant that despite challenges, BOTASH has managed to perform very well. He said that they have often done more with less. He could not rule out possibilities of retrenchments adding that sometimes retrenchments have to be done for the efficiency of any business. Asked about his view on the closure of BCL as he was once at the helm of the mine as its former Managing Director, he could not hide his disappointment over its liquidation.
“BCL is a company that needed to keep money for its operations to be afloat. Cutting costs was one of the necessary initiatives to keep the operations running. The company needed cash reserves. When I was still heading the mine, I once retrenched as a way of cutting the costs of operation and the Union understood my move. Sadly the mine had to close because it did not have funds to operate anymore,” he said.
BCL which also owned Tati Nickel Mine, shut down its operations two months ago after it was liquidated. Over 5 000 employees lost their jobs causing a devastating blow to the mining towns of Selibe Phikwe and Francistown.