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Termination notices for 350 Mowana Mine workers

MBONGENI MGUNI
Hundreds of workers at the troubled Mowana Mine, who were placed on paid leave on November 11 pending liquidation hearings, have been served with termination notices, as the copper mine faces a bleak end.

Owned by African Copper, Mowana and its sister operation, Thakadu, have both succumbed to the lowest copper prices in six years, which earlier this year forced the closure of Discovery Metals’ Boseto Mine.

The axed workers join hundreds of contract miners equally affected by the closure at the mines, in a bleak festive season for mineworkers. Yesterday, provisional liquidator, Max Marinelli told Mmegi that after the provisional liquidation order issued in favour of lead petitioner, Diesel Power, another court date was looming where a final order could be issued.

Diesel Power is owed P47 million for contract mining services, while other creditors include African Copper’s major shareholders and various service providers.

On December 11, attorneys for creditors and African Copper will once again meet and should a final order of liquidation be issued, this will mean the auctioning of assets at Mowana and Thakadu to pay off debts.

“If a final order is issued, then next is to send the matter to the auctioneers and have a fire-sale and this is not the best option because people come there for bargains, not looking at the potential of the business,” Marinelli said.

“We have had to issue termination notices to all the staff, which is very difficult as we are

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going into the festive season.”

A small number of workers and suppliers could bounce back for care and maintenance activities, which also involve keeping the mines secure.

However, on December 11, Marinelli could instead opt to push for an extension of the current provisional liquidation, which would mean care and maintenance activities for a few more months.

This option, however, will depend on several factors, including the cost of the care and maintenance budget, as well as the funds left in African Copper’s coffers for the exercise.

Marinelli said thus far, there had been no buy-out offers for the mines, no further cash from the shareholders nor any indications of a bailout from government.

“I do not know yet whether we will go for a final order or an extension of the provisional order,” he said.

The latest developments come as the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) ups its fight against contract mining, which it says represents the “fragmentation and casualisation” of labour.

“There’s no job security and these are the issues that arise from this. In addition, companies are not transparent. You cannot inform workers when the company is already in court,” BMWU president Jack Tlhagale told Mmegi last month, following a meeting with African Copper management.



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