Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hundreds of exploration licenses remain dormant

Botswana continues to confront a mounting issue with hundreds of mineral exploration licenses lying idle, as revealed in the latest Bank of Botswana 2023 annual report. The central bank’s findings underscore a significant discrepancy between granted licenses and active operations, with the majority presumed speculative.

According to a survey by the Botswana Geoscience Institute cited in the central bank report, the country boasts ample geological, geophysical, and geochemical potential for mineral exploration. Despite issuing over 1000 licenses for prospecting precious stones, metals, and industrial minerals, operational hurdles hinder progress. The transition from exploration to full-scale mining remains prohibitively costly, stifling efforts to diversify beyond a diamond-centric industry.

In light of these challenges, central bankers advocate for regulatory reforms, suggesting the imposition of time limits on license execution to discourage hoarding and expedite economic activity. The report highlights untapped coal reserves estimated at 28.2 billion tons, predominantly in the Mmamabula Coalfield, along with extensive diamond deposits, notably in the Orapa Kimberlite field, and gold occurrences in the Francistown area.

Despite the diverse mineral wealth, Botswana’s mining landscape is overwhelmingly diamond-dominated, supplemented by sporadic coal, cobalt, copper, and other mineral extractions. However, the sector’s contribution to employment remains modest, constituting less than two percent of total jobs.

The Bank of Botswana identifies a critical need for expanded secondary processing and beneficiation within the domestic economy to catalyze downstream economic opportunities. Insufficient infrastructure and social programs further constrain efforts to scale industrialisation and enhance socioeconomic indicators over desired timeframes.

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