A delegation from Selibe Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) led by the Mayor Leonard Amogelang Mojuta last week visited Debswana’s Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) to benchmark on the diamond mining company’s vision of “Orapa Today and Boteti Tomorrow”.
Selibe Phikwe is currently reeling from economic challenges after BCL shut down its operations which led to a loss of more than 2 000 jobs.
“The Orapa Today and Boteti Tomorrow” vision was coined by former General Manager at OLDM, the late Dr Adrian Gale in 2011 to diversify the economic base of the Boteti region from mining.
The community in the Boteti Sub District has continued to benefit from this vision.
Giving an overview of the visit, Mojuta said they felt the need to visit OLDM to learn about the mine’s contribution towards community development.
He said Selibe Phikwe has been left in economic paralysis after the closure of BCL. He also said the local authorities were inundated with calls from the community on what the future holds for them hence their visit to the diamond mining town to come up with solutions.
“We had to take a retreat as the Selibe Phikwe leadership to re-energise, benchmark and see how OLDM was doing things to empower the communities it operates in after learning about their vision.
“Phikwe is a very small town and after the closure of BCL there was migration of people and the population has drastically reduced. There is really an urgent need to revive the economy of Selibe Phikwe as the situation is sad,” he said.
He also said they want to work in collaboration with the Selibe Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) to breathe life back into the economy of Selibe Phikwe.
“We are hopeful that someday BCL might re-open and when it shuts down again we should not be caught off-guard like it happened. Selibe Phikwe has so much potential to transform into an economic giant. In fact it is the only town that is surrounded by four to five dams. We want to attract investment into the town in areas such as dam tourism and even agriculture,” he said.
Mojuta added that before BCL mine closed business they had a dream to transform the mining town into an industrial and metallurgical hub. He said that the dream still exists. He said they also want to establish mining schools and businesses that service mining equipment.
He further pleaded with Debswana to help the town through its Corporate Social Investment (CSI).
In his remarks when welcoming the delegates, the Senior Support Services Manager at OLDM, Thatayaone Sithole, said that through the vision, Debswana seeks to leave sustainable legacy in the Boteti region.
“Today is about making Orapa a good place to work at while tomorrow is about positioning Boteti as the hub or capital of the District,” he said.
He said the vision entails good schools, good hospitals, zero crime, sports and cinemas among others.
Sithole said Debswana make mining closure planning part of its operational philosophy and incorporates it in its strategic business plan.
He further explained that land uses and community aspirations as derived from the community consultations led to sustainable projects such as commercial livestock farming, development of drift fencing, diamond mining museum and the Kedia Community Trust.
Senior Resource Manager at OLDM, Cisco Mashabila, said they were proud to have come up with the vision to turn diamond dreams into lasting reality.
“Our vision is to become a global benchmark diamond business and our mission is to mine and recover diamonds optimally and responsibly,” he added.
He further revealed that Letlhakane will reach the end of its mining lifespan this year and added that Debswana will start mining its tailings to increase its for 20 more years.
“We recently concluded another evaluation in Orapa and we want to increase the mining life of the project to 30 years from now,” he added.
Mashabila said that Debswana managed and minimised the impact of its operations on the environment and were committed to zero net loss of bio diversity.
He said Debswana has set aside land for conservation and research (64 000 hectares) providing a sanctuary for many endangered species.
Israel Mpugwa, who is the project manager of the vision, emphasised that in an endeavour to diversify the economy of the Boteti region the mine has identified activities to drive the mine closure plan socio economic component.
“Debswana will leave an enduring and positive legacy in communities; it will attain closure certificates from relevant authorities without conditions,” he said.
As part of the efforts to drive the vision Mpugwa said the government through the Ministry of Lands and Housing instituted a committee to evaluate and facilitate the activities from various ministries.
These are the ministries of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Local Government and Rural Development, Trade and Industry, Minerals Energy and Water Resources and Education and Skills Development.