Saturday, July 31, 2021

BR, Transnet inefficiencies weigh heavily on BOTASH

Transportation challenges are continuing to mount heavily on Botswana Ash (BOTASH) due to the inefficiencies caused by Botswana Railways (BR) and Transnet in South Africa. These inefficiencies have forced the mine to transport 80 percent of its Soda Ash to South Africa through road and only 20 percent is transported through rail transport which has proved to be very expensive. BOTASH sells most of its Soda Ash to South Africa.

This was revealed by the Managing Director of BOTASH Mine Kangangwani Phatshwane in an interview with The Telegraph last week. While he was cagey on their financial information, he said BOTASH spends P350 million on transportation costs per annum.

“Logistics is one of the biggest challenges that we are facing. We are a heavy freight business that relies on railway transport. Naturally we would use rail transport as it is cheaper and efficient. Sadly the performance of BR and Transnet in providing us with rail services has not been what we had expected it to be. The services are inefficient,” he said.

He said BR has more often failed to maintain its tracks while Transnet on the other hand is failing to manage its tracks due to community unrests in South Africa. Phatshwane said there was a time in history where they used to transport 100 percent of their product to South Africa through railway line. 

“Eight percent of the Soda Ash that we transport through our roads also affects these roads. These transportation problems have also affected our business model because it has changed how we serve our clients,” Phatshwane.

Phatshwane however said that they have elevated these issues to Botswana government so that it also engages its South African counterpart. Phatshwane also expressed disappointment over lack of proper communication infrastructure at the mine. He said for some unknown reason, the mine was left out of the Fibre Network ring which makes communication for them miserable.

“For some reason we have been left out of this communication network which affects are communication,” he said.

He also bemoaned shortage of the drinking water at the mine. He said this has made it difficult for them to expand and grow their operations. He added that more often they have to compete for the little drinking water with the nearby communities. This often creates animosity between them and members of these communities as they feel that the mine is taking all the drinking water.

“A business of this magnitude has to have enough water. This is disappointing. We have since engaged Water Utilities and other government authorities over this issue,” he said.

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