Debswana Orapa and Letlhakane Mines continue to face daunting challenges like shortage of tires, skilled manpower and electricity which have, over time, adversely affected their production targets and also escalated production costs.
Speaking at a media briefing in Orapa recently, Debswana Orapa and Letlhakane Mines General Manager, Sebetela Sebetela, told reporters that though the company’s carat production is forecast to be on target for 2007, the mines continue to face daunting challenges in waste stripping. This has resulted in the mines’ waste stripping forecasts being below budget overall for the three mines largely due to the delayed delivery of new haul trucks at Orapa Mine as well as the impact of the shortage of tires in the world market.
Earlier this year, Debswana announced that they were experiencing inadequate supply of tires for their 190 tonne caterpillar overhaul trucks, and that this was negatively affecting production. The losses for the month of January 2007 alone were estimated at 1.3 million tones of waste, though there was uncertainty as to how much carats such a loss represented.
It emerged that the global increase in metal prices, which resulted in the resuscitation of the mining industry in China and India, resulted in a global shortage of tires as demand skyrocketed.
Debswana’s traditional tire suppliers, Bridgestone in Japan and Michelin in France, were unable to meet the mine’s demand, and the OLM management was forced to seek alternative supply in China. Unfortunately, though expensive, the Chinese tires were of inferior quality and less durable further worsening the mine’s woes as tire costs escalated. By July, the situation had somewhat normalized and the 9 trucks that had been grounded were back in action. However, the problem translated to an estimated 5.5 million tonne loss of production and an additional P30 million escalation in expenditure.
While the mine was grappling with the crippling tire shortage, it emerged that other consumables, like electricity and fuel, were also becoming scarce and more expensive. There were now heightened concerns over the steadily increasing price of oil which has since passed the $100 mark further increasing the mine’s woes.
Sebetela also revealed that the expected interruptions in electricity supply largely due to the expected power shortage in Southern Africa will also negatively affect production. “It is therefore highly crucial to continue searching and identifying new suppliers and managing consumption,” he said.
Another factor that has been giving the general manager sleepless nights is the scarcity of skilled manpower that continues to haunt the mining industry, especially as competition for the limited skills escalates due to the mushrooming of mines in Botswana and the large manufacturing industries in South Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
However, the General Manager explained that they are making efforts to improve staff development as well as to collaborate with other mining houses to mitigate the risk.