Botswana government has claimed it is not economically viable to mine any kind of mineral inside the controversial Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) although it has issued a number of prospecting licenses to prospectors.
Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Minerals and Energy Ministry, Nchidzi Mmolawa, revealed a random cost benefit analysis of mining in that area shows projected return on investment over the initial years would be a great loss to any interested company.
“Trying to mine at the CKGR would deliver far worse returns for any company. There will be losses of benefits for the given company,” he added.
Government and geologists from private companies who attended a media tour organised by Kalahari Energy, supported Mmolawa’s submission saying the economic case for mining in the reserve is complicated by the low quality of mineral reserve.
His claims are also supported by a case study of Ghaghoo Diamond Mine located at the CKGR which has been battling to reach a commercial point. The mine is scheduled to produce about 1 million carats per annum with a life-span of 17 years bolstering Botswana’s position as the premier diamond producer in the world.
Gem Diamonds said production at the underground mine will start in the first quarter of 2014 after its battle with a host of problems including a battle with sand over-burden which slowed mine construction.
The Managing Director of Gem Diamonds (Botswana), the company that owns the mine, Haile Mphusu, has in the past admitted that mining inside a game reserve is no walk in the park. In June 2008 the company contract┬¼ed a South African EIA firm, Marsh Environmental Serv┬¼ices, to help explore the viabil┬¼ity of mining inside a protected area.
Sunday Standard understands that the 2008 Marsh report did not find “fa-tal flaws” to the environment with regard to infrastructure for both bio-physical and socio┬¼economic impact. “All impacts associated with the project can be mitigated and positive impact can be en┬¼hanced”, the concerned report stated.
The report also identified ar┬¼eas that could mitigate mining impact on the environment. For a project that requires a capital expenditure of P550 million, taking both financial and environmental risks was not an option for the company which has mines in Lesotho.
The company however recently reported good progress at Ghaghoo, which it says offers strong growth potential.
“The decline tunnel continues to progress well through the competent basalt with 306 meters of basalt tunneling completed as at the end of October. (As at the end of October 2013 a total of 765 meters of underground development was achieved). Construction of the Plant is complete, with commissioning planned to be complete early in Q2 2014; well ahead of a sustainable feed of run of mine ore becoming available from underground,” a statement from the company reads.