Newly arrived Tati Nickel Mine General Manager, Peet J Kotze, last week urged the Botswana government not only to look for avenues through which they can diversify the economy away from the mining industry but also use the mining industry as a catalyst for economic diversification by inviting manufacturers of major mining inputs to set up shop in Botswana.
Speaking at the BOCCIM Annual Business Dinner in Francistown over the weekend Kotze said that government should make efforts to attract investment into Botswana especially through manufacturers who produce mining products that are imported and used as major inputs in the local mining industry.
He said that the mining industry imports materials such as rubber, chemical products, fuel, machinery, electric equipment, metals, vehicles and transport equipment. Fuel excluded, the amount of imports in the mining industry alone constitute an annual amount of about P10 billion. The opportunities for diversification of the economy lie within this P10 billion per annum arena and, therefore, government should not talk about diversifying the economy away from the mining industry but rather use the mining industry as a catalyst for diversifying the economy,” he said.
To illustrate his point, Kotze said that Tati Nickel and Debswana import a chemical compound called ferro-silicon for use in their mineral separation process. Based on the usage quantities and with the long life span of the mining operations Kotze suggests that it would make sense for government to persuade the manufacturers of ferro-silicon to set up a manufacturing facility in Botswana for domestic use and export to neighboring countries.
This example, he said, is equally relevant to other mining inputs such as explosives, conveyor belts, structural steel and many others. He said that unlike in the past when a ready source of supply through importation was enough, there are greater challenges in today’s world and it is imperative that the collaborative efforts of government and the mining industry should be brought to bear to pursue this approach.
On other issues, the general manager said that mining companies are primarily focused on meeting production and business targets set by the mine owners and the shareholders as well as addressing issues of health, safety and environmental awareness pertaining to the operations of the mine. ”The principal objective of venturing into mining in the first place is to deliver sustainable value to stakeholders,” he said.
But, said Kotze, mining operations are increasingly faced with new challenges as modern society expects them to go beyond their mining operations and grow their operations, continuously increasing employment opportunities and also training citizens to enhance their skills and competence.
Kotze also said that mining operations are seen as platforms through which other aspects of national and regional economic growth can be launched. “It is expected that mining operations will fill the gap where government has fallen short of providing public services like health and education,” he said.
To this end Tati Nickel has been a leading example in acting as a stimulus for diversified business opportunities in Botswana. Kotze outlined the mining company’s corporate social responsibility program which is focused on areas within a 50 km radius of Phoenix mine and the BMR facility.
“Tati Nickel Mine has approved business development projects totaling P1.2 million including tanning, honey production, catering, poultry, horticulture and others,” he said, adding that all the projects are operational and will uplift the neighbouring communities by creating employment opportunities.
Kotze said that the mine has also approved P2.0 million for social development projects including a mobile health clinic which was launched earlier this year. P895 000 has been set aside for improvement of mathematics and science projects in schools in 2008, covering six junior secondary schools and one senior secondary school in the region. Kotze said that the aim of this project is to enhance schools performance in terms of mathematics and science as these subjects are the foundation of the engineering and technical professions.