Mineworkers fall through the cracks

This edition carries an article on the planned full or part disposal of the suspended BK 11 diamond mine by its UK principals, Firestone Diamonds. While patently positive for the economy, news of the sale invariably evokes melancholy around the circumstances surrounding BK11's suspension last year. In brief, 143 workers lost their jobs on 28 February 2012, two weeks after first being briefed by management on the market and cash-related troubles the then two-year old mine was facing. Fifteen workers were retained for care and maintenance activities.

In the two years between commissioning and suspension of operations, the 158 workers attempted but ultimately failed to unionise, a process involving a recognition agreement between management and the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) and workers' subsequent subscription to the latter. At the time, BMWU alleged BK11 management had dragged out negotiations over key terms of the agreement, including a retrenchment formula. Workers were eventually retrenched via an arbitrary formula; their appeal to the minerals minister failed and they resignedly joined the swollen ranks of the unemployed.

The same scenario has played itself out over the years of Botswana's minerals boom, with workers left holding the short end of the stick when new mining ventures lost momentum and re-evaluated their viability.  Citing global recession-related stress in the last five years, young mines such as Mowana, Lerala and BK11 have either suspended operations or closed indefinitely, leaving hundreds of workers in the lurch.  Workers at established mines such as Debswana's operations, BCL Mine, Tati Nickel have had the benefit of long recognised retrenchment and/or separation agreements.  With their management more experienced in weathering financial storms, these workers have even been offered counselling and outsourcing opportunities as a way of ameliorating the shock and impact of joblessness. It is egregious that while this country's legislators have woven a watertight network of laws to ensure that investors manage the environmental and social impact of mining before commissioning, no document exists compelling them to safeguard the country's most important resource - Batswana.  According to the mosaic of laws, for an explorer to transform into a producer, they must prove a mineral resource, financial and technical prowess, social and environmental mitigations and decommissioning/rehabilitation strategies. 

Editor's Comment
Women unite for progress

It underscores the indispensable role women play in our society, particularly in building strong households and nurturing families. The recognition of women as the bedrock of our communities is not just a sentiment; it's a call to action for all women to stand together and support each other in their endeavours.The society's aim to instil essential principles and knowledge for national development is crucial. By providing a platform for...

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