The Managing Director of BCL Limited, Dan Mahupela has pleaded with Business Botswana to treat the delay in work permit issuance as top priority as it is a major factor affecting the ease of doing business in Botswana.
Speaking during the Business Botswana Gala dinner held in Francistown last week, he revealed that BCL has been a victim of the delay in issuing of permits during its last shutdown. “This is one of the cocktail factors that has tremendously led to the delay in the completion of our smelter re-build. I am therefore urging Business Botswana to make this a priority in their pursuit to create an enabling business environment,” he said.
Mahupela emphasised that Business Botswana must champion making doing business in Botswana conducive for foreign direct investment. He said there is need for balance between the regulatory reforms and attraction of investors. He also said that it has been verified the world over that some regulatory reforms can scare away investors especially those that are aimed at encouraging citizen empowerment.
“A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. The rankings are determined by several factors such as dealing with permits, getting electricity, trading across borders and enforcing contracts just to name a few,” he said.
He expressed worry that Botswana is ranked 74th in the world, a fall from number 66 ranking of 2014 despite the fact that it is ranked number five in Sub Sahara. Touching on BCL’s Corporate Strategy, Mahupela said although the company has been through different challenges, they had to be strong to keep their operations afloat. He said BCL has a history of operating under difficult circumstances such as low underground ore grades, high production cost and fluctuating metal prices.
“At BCL we have refused to follow dogma, we have rejected to wilt under criticism and followed over convictions. Life is tough today and we continue to be relentless and more daring,” Mahupela said.
He said in their corporate strategy, they have defined six main areas of focus namely, expansion and sustenance of nickel production circuit, development of a chemicals and by products production circuit, development of a precious metals and other minerals productions circuit, development of an iron production circuit, development of coal production and beneficiation circuit and development of a copper production circuit.
“I can confirm that this strategy has begun to deliver. We have completed the smelter rebuild albeit some unprecedented delays. This is key towards fulfilling our strategic intent of expanding and sustaining nickel production circuit,” he said.
Among other important issues, Mahupela said they have completed the acquisition of 85 percent shares of the Tati Nickel shares and completed a study that recommends the exploitation of Silkirk ore body from 2017 onwards. He also said they are doing a feasibility study for the Maibeele nickel deposit some 50 km from the BCL smelter. He said this ore is earmarked to replace the Phikwe ore bodies which are increasingly becoming difficult to exploit because of depth and heat challenges.
“We are also at an advanced stage with the acquisition of a 50 percent stake in the Nkomati mine in South Africa,” Mahupela added.
He also said the completion and commission of the first phase of Pula Steel Plant also confirms BCL’s strategic pillar of developing an iron production circuit. The plant is expected to produce 240 tons of steel from scrap metal. Once complete the plant will also produce iron products from iron ore mined in Botswana.
He urged the Francistown City Council(FCC) and its partners through its investment arm, Francistown Investment Forum(FIF) to be as inclusive as possible. “Other local authorities in the northern part of Botswana should be part of this journey,” he said. The Business Botswana Gala dinner was held under the theme “Business and Botswana; Discovering new ideas”.