The honeymoon over our natural resources that the developed countries have been allowed to enjoy for the past many years is evidently grinding to a halt, thanks to the beneficiation process the government is currently rolling out, says the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe.
Officially opening the Discovery Metals Limited (DML) building at Gaborone International Commerce Park, Kedikilwe took a swipe at the developed countries for having robbed Batswana of their natural resources and profited for a long time under the guise that beneficiation could not be profitable enough in Botswana.
“They have robbed us for a long time. The honeymoon is over. The government is currently creating a mining processing plant and soon our minerals will be cut and polished in the country to sustain the growth of the national economy and enhance the lives of Batswana. Many Batswana are loitering on the streets unemployed and beneficiation will thus open employment opportunities for these people. Batswana should be seen to benefit from these natural resources,” charged Kedikilwe.
He castigated companies that maltreat and marginalize unsuspecting Batswana employees, expelling them just when they are about to obtain their hard earned gratuities.
“Such incidences are prevalent and occur everyday in the country. These issues are so serious and have reached the hallowed walls of parliament. The laws of this country must be respected and be adhered to,” the minister said.
Despite the verbal attacks on defaulting companies, Kedikilwe commended DML for having set a good precedence by abiding with the laws of the country.
He urged other companies to follow suit, to expand the economy and to create employment.
“I am informed that DML adheres to the labour issues of this country. Their employees are covered by workman’s compensation, are paid overtime, receive gratuities and have 100 percentage medical aid cover. This is encouraging and I wish to ask, urge and nudge other companies to take their cue from DML’s example. I commend all the companies that may already be traveling this path,” said Kedikilwe.
Kedikilwe, who is also the MP for Mmadinare, observed that it was evident that DML is a company that embraces both enlightened self-interest and government’s policy thrust with respect to good employment practices and labour relations based on mutual respect and meaningful consultations.
“I note that transport and meals are provided for employees, sufficient protective equipment is provided and there is access to amenities, such as running water, closets, telephone, internet and email.”
Kedikilwe encouraged DML to do more, adding that the government would like to see a wider application of citizen empowerment and skills transfer.
Currently, DML employs a small number of people and the soon to resume construction project located in Maun has the potential to absorb 400 personnel while a further 250 could run DML operations.
“This is a positive impact on Botswana’s economy and the lives of our people which is highly significant,” Kedikilwe said, adding, “This achievement is no less spectacular considering that currently DML employs 18 people of which all but one are Batswana.”
He said that his ministry, and indeed the government, is confident that DML’s efforts would do more than expand the mining sector.
“We remain confident of your commitment to social investment and the exercise of due care for our environment within your operations.”
“To this end, I note that 600 square kilometers of mineralised tenements extending from Maun to Ghanzi are eventually under exploration and hereby express my confidence in looking forward to a long and mutual beneficial relationship between the government and DML. Botswana’s commitment to mineral beneficiation, value addition and, ultimately, the creation of a Botswana Diamond Centre is consonant with 2016 and beyond,” Kedikilwe noted.
He expressed optimism to DML’s plans to construct a processing plant for some 3 million tones of ore per year, a production that is projected to commence mid 2010, coinciding with Morupule B phase I 600 MW expansion.
The country has, of late, been grappling with power outages owing to less power supply by the main South African utility, ESKOM. The Energy minister is confident DML and the Morupule developments would allay future fears of power outages.
For his part, DML chairman Gordon Galt was confident of the company’s success.
“The company’s achievement is a great milestone in the history of DML and, more importantly, to Botswana.”