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Japanese firm scouts for mining joint ventures

Staff Writer
The Japan, Oil, Gas and Metals Corporation (JOGMEC) is scouring the country for joint ventures in mineral exploration, hoping to use its satellite survey technology to gain a foothold in the local mining scene.

Since setting up shop in Lobatse two years ago, JOGMEC has sealed a P18 million joint venture arrangement with Discovery Metals Limited for the exploration of platinum and nickel in north-eastern Botswana.

The Japanese parastatal has also sealed similar deals with Australian and Canadian companies exploring for platinum in South Africa.

Its preferred joint venture model involves paying a targeted company for the right to jointly explore for a certain mineral, then sharing the spoils of the production. In the Discovery Metal Joint venture, JOGMEC is entitled to 60 percent of the production of platinum and nickel arising from the Dikoloti exploration.

This year, JOGMEC officials are planning to gain further ground in Botswana, using their remote sensing technology as a competitive advantage. Remote sensing is the science of exploring for minerals using satellites in space.

JOGMEC Director, Tetsuo Suzuki said the organisation was keeping its ear to the ground in terms of joint venture opportunities this year.

"If a company has a prospecting licence with good potential, we could be interested in helping them unlock the value of that deposit.

"We are currently working with Australian and Canadian junior miners in South Africa, exploring for platinum and we are also looking at other countries for similar arrangements," he said.

Suzuki revealed that last year, several negotiations with potential joint venture partners had taken place, but these had failed to produce a conclusive agreement.

It is understood the Japanese apply stringent technical assessments before acceding to a joint venture, a factor which

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has eliminated many prospecting licence hopefuls.

Besides Botswana and South Africa, JOGMEC has joint venture arrangements in place in Canada and Australia, all linked to lucrative off-take agreements in uranium.

Generally, the Japanese are seeking to invest in uranium and platinum, minerals essential for the Oriental giant's burgeoning industry. Japan requires uranium for energy to support its growing economy, while it needs platinum for automobile emissions control devices, electronics and chemical industry.

Meanwhile, JOGMEC's five year partnership with the Department of Geological Survey (DGS) has thus far resulted in the training of 10 local geologists in the area of remote sensing. The ten have all been schooled in the five modules that make up the satellite geology training.

"The geologists we have trained thus far, have all gone back into the Department of Geological Survey, with greater knowledge and experience.

"This year we will be receiving five more who will be taken through the entire package of remote sensing," said Suzuki.

The JOGMEC Director revealed that the organisation has spread its wings into the region, training geologists from other SADC countries.

"So far, we have trained four geologists from Zambia and beginning today (Monday) we will be receiving five from Mozambique who will be trained until February 23.

"This is our way of spreading our reach into the SADC region," he said.

Last year, JOGMEC held a week-long conference in Lobatse where SADC geologists were updated on the latest trends in the profession and given a platform to exchange ideas and information.



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