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BCL upgrades smelter ahead of Nkomati ore

ISAAC PINIELO
Tombale
BCL mining and smelting company is to be shut down mid-next year for two months to upgrade its smelter as the company embarks on a strategy to transform into a diversified enterprise.

According to BCL’s divisional manager corporate strategy, Mack William, for the past two years the company has been doing some design work to upgrade the smelter.

“This design work was meant to modernise the smelter so it can operate for the next 10 years,” he explained.

From next year BCL will also be processing concentrate from its recently acquired Nkomati chrome and nickel mine in South Africa.

William noted that the transformation of the mine is in line with the company’s corporate strategy known as Polaris II, which aims at diversifying and extending the life of BCL mine beyond 2020, as the company seeks to penetrate the continent’s mining sector.

The BCL official acknowledged that the mine has experienced a decline trend since 1995 due to depletion of large zone ore body and the ever-increasing depth of operations at the shaft.

This has led to fears that BCL’s operations would fold up last year turning the town into a ghost town following reports that the mining and smelting concern was heavily in debt and struggling with a liquidity crunch.

Due to the deepening of its Selibe Phikwe Copper nickel mines, which have been mined since 1974, the company’s copper nickel production has dropped from 77 percent in 1985 to

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35 percent in 2013.

The deepening of shafts has also resulted with production costs increasing from P1.38 billion in 2011 to P1.58 billion in 2013. During the same period sales revenue for copper nickel increased from P1.43 billion to P1.74 billion and according to the Company the revenues were not enough to fund the Company operations. However, William was optimistic that its Polaris II initiative would yield benefits, saying the smelter at BCL would continue to smelt mineral ore from Selibe Phikwe and other mines such as Tati Nickel as well as from other mines in Africa and Europe.

He noted that BCL had a history of operating under difficult circumstances characterised by low ore grade, deepening shafts, high production cost and fluctuating metal prices.

Meanwhile, BCL chairman, Dr Akolang Tombale said the company has an ambitious mining plan of transforming the company into a giant mining company with assets in Africa.

Recently, the company acquired all Norilsk Nickel operations in Africa, including Tati Nickel Mine. 

Through this transaction Norilsk Nickel has sold the BCL its operations in Africa, which include its 50 percent participation interest in the Nkomati Nickel and Chrome Mine in South Africa, and its 85 percent stake in Tati Nickel Mining Company.



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