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Last Updated
Tuesday 03 August 2021, 12:07 pm.
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Workers agitated as Activox collapses

FRANCISTOWN: A contingent of regular police supported by members of the Special Support Group (SSG) had to rush to the construction site of the Activox refinery near Francistown after a group of workers gathered there demanding to know what was going on yesterday.
By RYDER GABATHUSE
Staff Writer
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Workers agitated as Activox collapses








But the Officer Commanding Number 1 District Senior Superintendent Alakanani Makobo has played down the matter, saying the situation was nowhere near riotous.

Just like you, the regular police and SSG there received a report relating to some agitatedŐ workers, Makobo says. We went there to find it was calm and there was nothing to worry about.

The workers agitation was prompted by a memo from Norilsk Nickel distributed on Wednesday warning employees about its decision to suspend construction of the refinery due to escalating costs.

In an interview with Mmegi, the Manager of Tati Nickel Divisional Organisational Capability Peter Meswele said not all companies at the construction site of the UD$498 million project will close down at the same time.

There will be job losses in the final analysis, but the process is going to give the companies a smooth wrap-up, Meswele says.

His explanation follows a decision by Norilsk Nickel International to postpone the Tati Activox refinery project indefinitely due to cost escalations. The announcement to postpone the project was made Wednesday this week.

The Activox technology is a patented hydro-metallurgical process that recovers nickel and copper metal from sulphide concentrates. Affected companies, not all leave at the same time, although they will all leave eventually.

For instance, if a company is constructing a tower, it cannot just leave the job incomplete, Meswele says.

Due to cost escalations at the Activox plant, the parent company for Tati Nickel, Norilsk Nickel International, consulted with shareholders, such as the Botswana government before deciding to halt the project.

HATCH is the main contractor of the Activox refinery, but is has sub-contracted a number of companies to do various jobs in accordance with their areas of expertise.

HATCH has also briefed its sub-contractors about the suspension of the project. At this point in time, the Tati Nickel and BMR Activox demo plant will continue with the job, Meswele explains. We don't think this is going to affect us at all. This project is looking into the future of the mine. He insists that

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most workers will keep their jobs and that there is no need for workers to panic at this stage.

A semi-skilled employee of one of the contractors at the site was worried that after only a few months of employment, he will be back on the street in search of a job.

It's painful to go on the street looking for elusive jobs, the youthful man said. Francistown is very quiet in the construction sector.

We are all having sleepless nights as to who is going to be laid off and who is going to remain. We cannot blame our company because they take instructions from the principals of the project.

I just don't know what I am going to do about my obligations to banks and other financial institutions. Another employee said he feared the breaking out of conflicts between Batswana and Zimbabweans over jobs at the construction site.

The trouble is a good number of the skilled personnel here are from Zimbabwe, he said. You can imagine Batswana going home while Zimbos remain here.

News of the halting of the massive project has sent shock waves among organised labour organisations. The Secretary General of the Botswana Mining Workers Union (BMWU), Jack Tlhagale, said he was astonished.

I have read the memo from the management of Tati Nickel and was shocked to find that it says nothing about the workers, Tlhagale said. He said he was forced to return from a trip to Maun in order to discuss issues pertaining to the workers, some of whom are members of the BMWU, with the management of HATCH.

Tlhagale says during his meeting with the management of HATCH Wednesday evening, nothing was mentioned about halting the project.

This is such a huge project that I expect any decision reached to have been fully discussed with all stakeholders, including the workers, he says.

BMWU and HATCH are scheduled to go into a meeting in which HATCH will try to bring Tlhagale and other unionists to a better level of understanding.

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