Rosy 2015 beckons for Phikwe

BCL mine
BCL mine

SELEBI-PHIKWE: The year 2015 promises to be a good one for Selebi-Phikwe as the town experienced several economic advancements in 2014, led primarily by its mainstay, BCL Mine and other stakeholders.

In 2014, government moved to wholly acquire BCL Mine, after successfully negotiating with previous co-shareholders Norilsk Nickel International for the outstanding six percent, under a mutual deal.

Officials explained that the move was necessary to give government effective control of the company particularly in view of its importance in driving the economic future of the Selebi Phikwe region. The Mine’s Polaris II strategy, which aims to diversify and extend the mine’s existence beyond 2020 and to economically develop Selebi Phikwe through a variety of initiatives, also kicked up a gear in 2014.

BCL Mine pushed hard to become debt free settling a sum of P3.3 billion in outstanding obligations to its principal shareholder, government. The settlement was made via P1 billion in cash and P2.3 billion in shares.

The clean balance sheet ensures that going into 2015, the mine is better positioned to approach capital markets for funding productive assets for growth.

BCL Mine board chair, Akolang Tombale told journalists during the year that being debt free meant the Mine was now well positioned to pursue growth in Africa through mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and could effectively leverage its technical capacity in mineral extraction built over 40 years.

During the year, BCL Mine also ended market speculation by snapping up Norilsk Nickel’s African assets in a US$337 million (P3.2 billion) deal signed in Johannesburg. Under the deal, BCL scooped up Norilsk’s Nkomati nickel and chrome mine in South Africa, as well as its 85 percent stake in Tati Nickel Mining Company to BCL.

 The acquisition of Nkomati marked a major achievement of the Polaris II strategy, as it was BCL’s first investment foray outside Botswana. The transaction means that BCL has now evolved into a regional player with high quality mining assets supported by a strong metallurgical background.

Polaris II also gave birth to an P89.5 million steel manufacturing plant whose construction is still underway in Selebi-Phikwe. When fully operational, the plant will employ 1,000 people directly and will be the only fully integrated steel manufacturing company in Botswana, processing scrap metal into different types of steel.

According to BCL Mine general manager, Dan Mahupela, the steel plant will put Botswana on the map in the manufacture and sale of the commodity, while also boosting the regional and national economy. “The mine’s life has been centred around copper and nickel but now we want to venture into the iron industry,” he said at the groundbreaking.

In addition, Pula Steel will reduce the country’s reliance on imported steel, which amounted to P2.6 million last year.

During the year, Selebi Phikwe also welcomed the establishment of a horticultural processing plant, as well as the expansion of the town’s airport, lending to a positive outlook for 2015.

From years of uncertainty due to dwindling resources at BCL Mine, the fears of Selebi Phikwe’s degenerating into a ghost town abated in 2014 due to the efforts of its principle economic player, BCL Mine and other actors.

The town and its residents are looking forward to a brighter future in 2015 and beyond.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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