At some stage, jobs will have to be shed when BCL finally shuts down with no new discoveries and it is now agreed that Selebi Phikwe and its environs needs to step up search for new livelihood to support over 80, 000 people dependent on the mine.
The current resource estimates points to a mine life-span that will go until 2013.
However, BCL has been involved in underground exploration that might extend the lifespan of the mine and bring back the contrast between diversification and pollution from the smelter.
Exploration is centered between shaft No.3 and Selebi.
“The geophysics Titan 24 survey preliminary report indicated a number of interesting targets. However, drilling of one of the targets produced poor results prompting the reinterpretation of results and engagement of geophysical specialist,” Chief Executive Officer, Montwedi Mphathi, told the past Botswana Resource Sector Conference.
Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU), an agency responsible for saving the area after BCL believes there is no contrast even if mining continues.
“If BCL finds new deposits, it will give us the dates (new lifespan). I do not think there is contrast. Diversification is needed whether BCL is there or not. We do not have time; 2013 is near,” Wazha Tema, the Marketing and Communications Manager of SPEDU told Sunday Standard on Friday.
BCL, which operates four shafts, is a major employer after government with over 5000 people and any job losses will trickle down to the general economy.
“Diversification is not linked to BCL anymore,” added Tema.
Several attempts were made in the past to diversify the economy of the region but they were not successful in broadening the economy of the town to a sustainable level after the closure of the mine.
A number of initiatives were tried out including the Selebi Phikwe Regional Development Programme (1985), the SP Regional Development Unit (1987), the Financial Assistance Policy and Special Incentive Package.
Then a Selebi Phikwe Diversification Committee was established in 2001 following a private sector led initiative followed by a diversification study conducted by CSA, a consultancy firm that led to the birth of SPEDU.
Initially, diversification was centred around looking at Selebi Phikwe and aftermath of mining, but it has been broadened to include Bobirwa, Mmadinare and Tswapong north.
A number of studies have been conducted by SPEDU including the one on regional tourism, which identified the region as a tourism transit route targeting north bound tourists and the Letsibogo Dam tourism leisure and recreation study.
It has also conducted study on the potential of horticulture and agro processing that recognises horticulture production in within the region and the study on the potential of using existing BCL assets.
The study found out that there is a prima facie business case with the potential of building and sustaining synergies between the mining houses and others like Botswana Railways for the maintenance and servicing of rail rolling stock.
Apart from paying dividends to government, the mine is the life-blood of over 80,000 people in Selebi Phikwe and surrounding areas.