One in five mining jobs disappear

Botswana Mine Workers Union members during their protest against the closure of BCL Mine last year
Botswana Mine Workers Union members during their protest against the closure of BCL Mine last year

For every five people directly employed in the minerals industry last year, one lost a job, according to data made available yesterday in the National Assembly.

Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security minister, Sadique Kebonang told legislators that overall numbers of direct employment in the mineral sector had declined 21% to 19,519 workers last year. The latest data indicates weakening employment figures in mining, from 24,572 in 2014, to 23,761 in 2015.

The drop was largely due to the closure of BCL and Tati Mines, which were placed under provisional liquidation in October, with the main shareholder, Government, citing excessively high costs of operating capital required. “Copper and nickel prices showed improvement in 2016 from US$2.06/pound to US$2.65/pound for copper, and US$3.80/pound to US$5.20/pound for nickel respectively.

“However, the prices remain a challenge for the marginal operations and BCL and Tati were placed under provision liquidation due to severe financial distress,” he said. Kebonang, backed by Cabinet, is leading a search for takeover partners, with Dubai investors reportedly set to conduct a due diligence as part of their assessment of the closed Mines.

Yesterday, lawyers representing the provisional liquidator asked the High Court for an extension of the return date for the original liquidation order, citing the need to finalise a takeover deal with investors.

Meanwhile, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) is set to receive 50% of the Ministry’s development budget of P2.9 billion for the financial year that begins on April 1, 2017.

Kebonang said the funds would be for tariff support as part of Government policy to protect consumers against the impact of cost-reflective tariffs.

“There is a need to continually provide financial support to BPC so that it meets its obligations, which will taper off as measures are put in place to migrate to cost reflective tariffs, not losing sight of the need to protect low income households through appropriate interventions,” he said.

At P1.46 billion, the funds due for the BPC in the upcoming financial year, are marginally down from the P1.67 billion the corporation received in the current financial year.

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