Some 406 kilometres away from his primary audience, President Ian Khama has given the assurance that the economic future of Selebi Phikwe is very secure.
Speaking at a weekend rally in Gaborone, Khama punctuated a wide-ranging political speech to present a “breaking news” item. The news was that just the previous day (Friday), BCL mine had bought Tati Nickel Mining Company and Nkomazi Nickel and Chrome Mine in South Africa.
“Breaking news” was pushing it because this announcement came a day after BCL issued a press statement about the purchase. What looks certain though is that the spectre of ghost town that has long loomed over the copper-mining town has been lifted for years to come.
A statement from BCL says that The company has entered into definitive transaction agreements with Norilsk Nickel to buy the latter’s operations in Africa as well as obtain a 50 percent participation interest in the Nkomati and its 85 percent stake in Tati Nickel Mining Company in Botswana. The total expected consideration for the Assets payable by BCL to Norilsk Nickel amounts to US$337 million payable in cash.
“This means that the South African mine which smelts its copper ore in Russia will now smelt it in Selebi Phikwe. It also means that the future of Selebi Phikwe and BCL workers will improve significantly from now on,” the president said.
The mining town of Selebi Phikwe has not fared too well lately. Not so long ago it lay feebly on its deathbed and was being nursed back to health with a heavy-dose cocktail of pula and euro medication being administered by the government of Botswana and the European Union. Shots of the Chinese yuan have also helped stabilise its condition.
This is what prompted the government to launch the Selebi Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) whose main aim is to breathe life back into a town which is also the lifeblood of outlying villages like Mmadinare and Sefhophe that are arterially and fatefully attached to it.
Promoting economic diversification of the Selebi Phikwe region is to be done through the re-investment of funds from loan re-imbursement by BCL copper/nickel mine and Tati to the government into a “Re-Employment Account” (REA) to fund diversification activities. EU support also includes a number of feasibility studies offering potential for economic diversification.
The development planning, direct funding for the project will be provided by the government while the EU will take care of long-term technical assistance. The latter is being provided through the services of an expert┬áwith experience of the reconstruction of areas affected by declining heavy industry.
With its new acquisitions, BCL will be able to continue to be a mainstay of the regional economy.