Monday, June 24, 2024

Confidential documents reveal BCL plans to take over regional mines

The Bamangwato Concession Limited (BCL) is planning to take over a number of mines in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe in an ambitious move that may turn the tiny copper-nickel firm into a mining behemoth. Sunday Standard investigations have turned up documents detailing how the mining company, most believed had one foot on the grave has now hit aswashbuckling buccaneering form and has its eyes set on acquiring among other mines, the Nkomati mine in South Africa. The Nkomati mine is a large mine in the north-east of South Africa nearMachadodorp in Mpumalanga. Nkomati represents one of the largest nickelreserve in South Africa having estimated reserves of 408.6 million tonnes of ore grading 0.33% nickel. The 408.6 million tonnes of ore contains 1.35 million tonnes of nickel metal.

The BCL is also eyeing gold and nickel mines in Zimbabwe and copper mines in Zambia. Sunday Standard investigations have established that plans are at an advanced stage to change the BCL Mine in Selibe Phikwe into a new “enterprise” with copper and nickel playing only a fraction of the new entity. Documents shown to the Sunday Standard and which have been presented to cabinet indicate BCL Mine leadership proposing to government a new set of drastic steps to get away from the “sundown mentality that the curtain is about to close.” The mine wants to be allowed to become a “Base metals business of Southern Africa.” Up to a decade now the town of Selibe Phikwe for has been gripped by lingering possibility of the BCL Mine closure which had brought questions on the long term viability of the town. BCL Mine is Selibe Phikwe’s mainstay. If implemented the new plan which will see BCL mine lifespan increased by at least another thirty years is expected to also dispel fears that Selibe Phikwe will become ghost town.

The Plan proposes that BCL Mine be allowed to use its capacity to save Selibe Phikwe. Curiously, the Plan comes in the wake of recent corporate developments which saw BCL become a Botswana Government wholly owned private company. This was after the Russian conglomerate, Norilsk shed their stake. Documents passed to the Sunday Standard revealed that BCL now wants to acquire former Norilsk mines in the region. New proposals also come after internal discussions in Government established that SPEDU ( a parastatal established to save the town beyond BCL Mine) would not be able to move fast enough much less be capable of become a replacement of BCL in the town. As part of the new plan, BCL has already started looking for mining deposits around the country that would replace the diminishing copper deposits at Selibe Phikwe that the company is currently mining. The Mine is also establishing joint ventures which will fast-track the process of enlisting into its production pipeline a number of known deposits which had been left un-mined because at the time they were deemed not economic enough. Also being expedited is the process of treating the tailings. BCL has told government that on account of improvements in technology the tailings will significantly release copper from them.

The new strategy, dubbed POLARIS II will improve efficiency, utilize the Mine’s economies of scale by dominating copper treatment from al mines up to a radius of 1500 kilometers. These will include mines from countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique. Discussions are also at an advanced stage to establish partnerships between BCL and smaller copper mines in those countries. The still classified documents refer to establishing a, “Iron Production Circuit” which will see BCL diversifying from copper-Nickel and into other base metals. The company will also scale up beneficiation especially that of sulphure but also other toxic by-products which it currently blows into the atmosphere. Exploration has also been intensified as has been efforts to invest in modernising the treatment plants to make BCL mine’s smelter become the sub region’s premier preferred treatment plant for concentrates.

Cabinet has also been briefed on opportunistic acquisition opportunities especially in Zimbabwe. The figures flouted about include $700 million a year that a reformed BCL would be able to pump into the new economy, with an additional 1800 direct jobs. These exclude downstream industries that will be expected to be a feeder into the copper metal economy BCL has also made known its intention to diversify into coal mining which if approved would turn the company and Selibe Phikwe into what it calls a “metallurgical Hub of Southern Africa.”
BCL management could not be reached for comment.


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