The fate of the BCL mine in Selebi Phikwe has finally been decided. In terms of a court order that was issued last Thursday, BCL has been “placed in final liquidation” ÔÇô legalese for a process of bringing a business to an end and distributing its assets to claimants. This order basically means that BCL as has been known and has existed since 1956 is no more. In the same order, that was made by Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang at the Gaborone High Court, Tati Nickel Mining Company, which BCL has shares in, will remain under provisional liquidation until April 9 next year.
This is the fifth time that the company’s period of provisional liquidation has been extended. Poor quality copper ore and a protracted slump in commodity prices spelled doom for BCL mine, which was the lifeblood for not just the town of Selebi Phikwe but an entire region (comprising the villages of Bobonong, Mmadinare, Lerala and Maunatlala) with a population of around 200 000 people. In order to keep the mine running, the government needed to pump P7.6 billion into it but decided that wouldn’t be a wise investment.
BCL, which was the largest and oldest in the country, becomes the third copper mine to shut down after two others owned by African Copper and Discovery Metals. BCL mine’s closure resulted in more than 4500 people losing their jobs. For a brief period of time last year, it looked like a United Arab Emirates company called Emirates Investment House (EIH) would come to the rescue but the latter turned out to be just a mirage shimmering in the distance.
The application for liquidation was brought by Nigel Dixon-Warren who, in his statutory report to creditors made some quite startling statements. The report reveals that 12 months into the liquidation, incomplete company documents, unsigned board minutes and a wholly inadequate set of financial and asset statements going back over a period of five years have prevented him from fully fulfilling his mandate.
“The board appears to have had neither the capacity nor the commercial expertise to provide appropriate governance and guidance to the management team. This is not just in recent years. Many of the issues identified as being the root causes for the company’s failure date back four or five years, more likely longer prior to liquidation,” the report says. Tati Nickel’s own closure resulted in the loss of 705 jobs and badly affected the economic health of Francistown, Botswana’s second city.