FRANCISTOWN – Although the mining sector in the country is rocked by challenges that have seen several mines in the country close down due to the slump in commodity prices, the Managing Director of Botswana Ash (BOTASH) Pty Ltd, Montwedi Mphathi, says that 2017 looks brighter for the mining company in terms of product demand and profitability.
BOTASH, which is the largest producer of natural sodium products in the region, produces 300 000 tonnes of soda ash and 650 000 tonnes of salt tonnes per annum.
Located in Sua Pan in the northern part of the country, BOTASH is owned by the government of Botswana and Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group, a South African company, at 50 percent shareholding each
Briefing the media ahead of the mine tour by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang last week, Mphathi was adamant that 2017 is a promising year and the future looks bright.
“It is a very promising year in terms of demand and profits. We are also targeting P300 million EBITDA by the year 2018,” he said.
The mine has also performed well in 2016 as it paid government P90 million as dividend.
Mphathi also said that they were looking into diversifying their products to avoid being reliant on a single commodity especially salt.
Among some of the products that they want to produce and sell are fertiliser, bicarbonate of soda and carbon dioxide (CO2), which can be used in the air cleaning industry.
BOTASH is also looking at tapping into the detergent industry as light soda ash is used in powdered paste and soap detergents. Additionally this product acts as a water softener and also has a cleaning function. BOTASH currently sells 2 percent of this product.
“We want to explore all these opportunities,” he said
Touching on environmental issues, Mphathi said that the mine upheld such issues on high regard.
“In terms of the environment we are ISO: 14001 certified. We are enhancing all our efforts to ensure that the environment we operate in is highly protected as you are well aware that this is a breeding area for flamingoes,” he said.
He further said in terms of quality, the mine is ISO: 9001 certified to ensure that they have consistency in their products and services. He emphasised that it was important to ensure that the right quality of products reached the customer and it was traceable more so that they supplied manufacturers who required pure quality products.
General Manager (Operations) at BOTASH Kangangwani Phatshwane also added that they were looking at maximising their returns. He revealed that they were currently looking at expanding soda ash production. He said once they had that opportunity to expand they would also look at treating part of that expanded production.
“We are also very well known for packaging our products especially salt in 50kg bags. We want to take that forward and produce smaller products down to 500 grammes in that regard. That obviously adds more value. So generally per unit the smaller packages attract a higher price.
“We are actually building a pilot plant to grow in that direction in a serious way. In the past we have tried to promote local actors to go into that market. Unfortunately most of them have stayed small in a manner that they cannot handle the volumes we produce,” he said.
He said they were currently in discussions of forming a partnership to take this idea forward.
BOTASH also continues to engage in Corporal Social Responsibility initiatives as a way of giving back to the communities that it does business in.