Jwaneng Town, with a population of about 18, 000 people, is bracing itself for the influx of more than 2, 000 workers assembling in the mining town to accelerate the P3.4 billion expansion of the Debswana mine pit.
The mammoth project involves the stripping away of 713 million tonnes of waste between 2010 and 2016 to expose an additional 75 million tonnes of kimberlite, extending Jwaneng Mine's lifespan by seven years. In recent weeks, scores of contract workers, mainly expatriate, have descended on Jwaneng, shifting focus to the project's impact on the mining town's social and economic spheres.
Last week, a meeting of Cut 8 project team leaders and civic leaders highlighted the various positive and negative aspects the pit expansion has brought to Jwaneng. While Cut 8's benefits to Jwaneng's economy are not in doubt, concerns have been raised over the town's capacity to handle the swelling population and impact of this on the community.
Civic leaders are concerned that Cut 8 could lead to squatting, as accommodation is limited in the mining town. Concerns have also been raised about HIV/AIDS, crime and other social vices which could escalate as a result of the higher town population and increase in money circulating.
Opportunities brought about by the project for Jwaneng include the construction of an Operations Village for Cut 8 to be located at the former Parks & Gardens.
The hotel type accommodation will be made up of single rooms with en-suite ablutions, sound insulation and black out curtains, to cater for day and night shift workers moving in and out of the facility.
According to the Jwaneng Bulletin, Technical Services Manager, Rodgers Thusi, Jwaneng Mine would not be building new houses for the additional workers expected, due to the costs involved. Thusi encouraged Jwaneng residents to either build houses which can then be let to the Mine and contracting companies, or let out residential property to the additional workforce.
"Sometimes locals find it overwhelming to undertake large construction projects, however I encourage you to venture in to the supply of construction material for the envisaged Operations Village, mining equipment and construction of secondary facilities associated with this project," he said.
The Jwaneng Bulletin quoted Councillor Tsietsi Oodira-Kwenje as suggesting that the Mine assists landholders develop their plots, which property could then be leased free to the Mine for a period after which rentals take effect.
Besides accommodation, Cut 8 is expected to enhance sectors such as hospitality and tourism, banking, retail and wholesale, transport and others.Civic leaders also expressed concern about the recruitment for Cut 8, saying all contractors should be encouraged to hire Jwaneng residents, which would also ease the anticipated accommodation blues for the additional workers.
Yesterday, area Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile told Mmegi that he had already approached the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs concerning the "high" recruitment of expatriates by contractors.
"Most of the contractors who have won the tenders are coming with their own people from outside, mostly South Africa and I have raised this issue with the Ministry because the billions we are expecting to spend on this project are going outside the country.
"We have to make sure that each and every billion spent rolls back to our economic set up," he said.Reatile said while Cut 8 would bring numerous benefits to Jwaneng, these would be short term in nature as the bulk of the additional workforce is made up of expatriates who will return to their countries once the project is concluded.
"Some of the jobs being advertised for the project require people to apply to a South African address. Why should a Motswana apply to South Africa for a job available in Botswana?
"Batswana are being overlooked even for projects such as the demolition of structures that will be occupied by the expanded pit. I understand that skills may be needed for the construction of structures, but what about the demolition," he said.
The Ngwaketse West legislator is among MPs that have, over the years, grilled various ministries and departments over recruitment policies for government-funded projects.