Mmegi Online :: Geologist sees copper as Botswana’s next big thing
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Last Updated
Friday 20 September 2019, 16:30 pm.
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Geologist sees copper as Botswana’s next big thing

At his new office in Fairgrounds Office Park, Gaborone, recently appointed executive director, Boikobo Bashi Paya has announced from their Khoemacau headquarters the acquisition of a copper mining licence. He talks copper, man’s earliest metal to be used that he sees as the next big thing for Botswana.
By Monkagedi Gaothobogwe Fri 21 Sep 2018, 14:29 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Geologist sees copper as Botswana’s next big thing








His company is making swift moves to have the opening of its copper mine in the North West District near Toteng by 2021.

Paya joined Khoemacau abruptly, leaving his plum job at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) in Palapye, where he was responsible for international linkages and partnerships and often acted as deputy vice chancellor. 

He also held the position of chairperson at Tshukudu Metals.

Paya is the energetic type when he talks, when he walks, and at his new offices. He is often in jeans; speeding here and speeding there in a race against time to get the mining project off the ground. 

He is upbeat, with a smile on his face and light in his eyes as he talks copper, ‘the next big thing for Botswana’.

That’s an irony, for a country that in recent years closed down both of its copper mines including the mine that sustained a whole town, Selebi-Phikwe. Paya is not talking that though. He is not raving up the spilled milk of Selebi-Phikwe, nor talking in relation to its copper resources.  In fact, the geologist and former permanent secretary at Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, opines Selebi-Phikwe copper-nickel mines have already served their time.

There is something to be excited about and keep focus on, and that is the Kalahari Copper Belt.

It is the 1,000km stretch of copper belt running from the Okavango Delta, through the Kalahari Desert, and Gantsi, down to the Namibian border and beyond.

The Kalahari Copper Belt that Paya is raving about could be the biggest thing for the country and the world for the next several decades.

Paya’s company is banking on part of this 1,000km stretch of copper belt as it moves with speed for full mining operations by the second half of 2021.

Paya’s confidence is perhaps derived from a forecast of copper prices from the present to 2030, by the World Bank, and the International Monitory Fund (IMF), which indicate that the 10-year period will be characterised by a steady high commodity price of about $7,000 per tonne as demand is projected to exceed supply due to shortage of commodities.

Paya sees Botswana’s Kalahari copper belt as a gift to the world at a time when the globe’s existing copper mines have gone deeper, expensive and uneconomical.

In fact, Paya looks a stress-free man as he discusses Khoemacau’s bid to raise about  half a billion dollars (P5 billion ) in the capital market for the   envisaged mining operations.

He says the company has already hosted a number of potential investors in the project and he is optimistic the financial closure will be reached soon.

“It is not only about the mining resources, it is also about the impression they make of government, its policies, and the people; and to be honest to you, the investors have felt very humbled by the manner of hosting they were accorded by our top government personnel. 

“They said they did not imagine that level of reception would be easy, but they were received by the very top decision-makers,” says Paya with satisfaction written all over his face. It is only recently that Paya was the PS at the ministry responsible for minerals.

He says as a technocrat who understands government machinery, he sees himself as a catalyst for mining investments; rendering advice where necessary to his colleagues in government, especially with regard to taking advantage of

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investment opportunities that present themselves like this one. Perhaps that explains why he wears so many hats as non-executive director of several mining outfits in copper, and coal resources. “Some of these roles I take them, not as a job, but because of my passion as a geologist and conviction in these minerals’ prospects of turning Botswana around; Botswana’s copper and coal resources will soon be the engines of growth and creating significant employment. 

Look, for instance, South African coal resources are challenged. They are unable to meet their export quota, and coal has become too expensive for Eskom to buy from within South Africa.   It is time for Botswana to position itself and supply Eskom and the region with coal,” says the bubbly Paya.

Of Khoemacau mining operations, Paya says it will be modelled around modern mechanised mining operations that use heavy equipment, semi-automatic systems, fewer people, more heavy machinery, remote operation of machinery, which will be safer, and more productive.

According to Paya, this mining operation will also be attractive to women and young people due to computerised environment, where machinery will be operated from a common room in some cases.

He explains that this model of mining is based on the Australian-approach to mining, which has been in existence for more than 20 years.  “It will operate more on skilled labour, but there will be places in the operations where semi-skilled and unskilled labour will be needed for sure.

“That’s the way we think this country has to go moving forward. It is the modern way of doing mining; it is less jobs, but we will still get 1,000 people employed, supporting families, and probably two times that amount as a result of spin-offs.  “Normally, there are more spin-offs, as we learnt before from Selebi-Phikwe, where there were more jobs in the town than at the mine,” Paya enthuses. He also says they will avoid the mistakes of Discovery Metals, which used to operate BOSETO mine at Toteng and went under liquidation.

Discovery Metals resources have since been acquired by Khoemacau. Paya says one of Discovery Metals’ challenges was the cost of electricity.

The company used diesel generators, which were costly to run. However, Khoemacau will benefit from the Botswana Power Corporation North West Electricity Grid Connection Project that is currently being built.

It is expected that by December next year, the Toteng substation will have been completed, paving the way for the mining company to commence wheeling electricity 60km to the mining site and processing plant.

Paya also says Discovery Metals had opted for the open pit method of mining the ore, from which only 40% copper was recovered, whereas Khoemacau will be going underground immediately which will give access to ore from which 86% copper will be recovered.

In preparation for the mining operations, Paya says already some early works are being initiated, including the short-listing of mining contractors.

Khoemacau already has 87 employees at the site responsible for keeping their processing plant and other assets on care and maintenance.

Paya says by this time next yea,r he expects this number to have increased to approximately 550, while mobilisation of mining contractors is scheduled for  end of next year.

Although they target to produce 3.6 million tonnes of copper per a year on full throttle, Paya says the mine will steadily start as a small operation, getting bigger and bigger with time.

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