With its vast coal resources exceeding 200 billion tonnes, Botswana’s mining industry has been cautioned to balance the benefits accruing from the exploitation of the deposits against the ensuing environmental hazards.
The warning was sounded by Air Botswana General Manager, Sakhile Nyoni-Reiling, when officiating at the Botswana Chamber of Mines bi-annual meeting in Francistown last week.
She said that the abundance of coal deposits in the country brings with it many opportunities that are coupled with numerous challenges and, therefore, implored the mining industry to take caution on the potential environmental hazards in the exploitation of the vast resources with significant economic value.
“At a time when the world is moving towards green energy, all of us have to be more mindful of our daily activities and of our carbon footprint. We recognize that coal does not readily fit into the category of a clean fuel,” she said.
Reiling added that there is a high need by the mining industry to take responsibility in safeguarding the environment by leveraging enhanced technological developments and innovations, especially in identifying ways of cleaner and greener utilisation of such fuels.
She observed that the mining industry is a naturally destructive activity to the environment and as such needs to alleviate the destruction or where it is not possible, rehabilitate post mining activities.
“It is important that communities around the mining areas are able to associate mining activities with good returns, development, good governance, responsibility, sustainability and therefore to actively support the mining industry,” she said.
Reiling also expressed concern over a shortage of skilled workforce in the mining industry, which she said continues to be one of the biggest challenges.
She lauded the government internship programme as it exposed the youth to gaining relevant experience and delivery of ready-made skills to all industries.
“The mining industry has always been good in developing its own skills through a similar program (apprentice) and this has worked well over many years. Skills development must therefore remain a key component of the industry with continuous injection of funds into programmes aimed at developing and delivering these skills at the right levels and in the right quantities,” Reiling said.
She further hailed Botswana’s mining industry saying that through the Botswana Chamber of Mines, mining has re-engineered its procurement processes to focus on the acquisition of local goods and services.
She said that showed the industry’s commitment in contributing towards the country’s economic diversification efforts.
“We expect that this contribution should not only encourage citizen participation in the mainstream economy, but also hopefully translate to cheaper delivery of goods and services,” she concluded.