The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale says earth tremors in Selebi-Phikwe have lately increased in intensity and frequency.
Speaking at the Parliament yesterday, Molale said the first earth tremors were felt and reported in December last year. They were the first of such incidence since BCL went into liquidation. He however pointed out that his Ministry commissioned an independent investigation using a joint team of local and South African consultants with the view to determine the location and cause of the tremors, and understand their nature and effect.
“The investigation is anticipated to conclude this month and final results will be available no later than September 2019. The Ministry will continue to monitor the incidences beyond the investigation period. Preliminary results show that the majority of the incidents are happening beyond 980 metres below ground level,” he said.
Molale also explained that based on reports by residents of Selebi-Phikwe and their on-site observations, he could confirm that indeed the earth tremors have increased in both frequency and intensity. He added that he was aware that the current mood in the area was filled with fear and anxiety.
He also stated that his Ministry was aware of reports that some houses in the area recently cracked . However, he told the Parliament that he could not at the moment confirm that the reported cracking of buildings was a result of the tremors.
“On the issue of liability, I believe that once the cause or causes of the reported cracks and or injuries is or are established, liability would be determined through the due process of the law,” he said.
The Minister also pointed out that through Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) had through various recent communication modes including Tatediso ya Dikgang, meeting with Selebi-Phikwe District Commissioner, Radio interviews with different radio stations updated the residents and the general public of the investigators mission, which was to determine the source and nature of the tremors. He added that he was planning to visit Selebi- Phikwe residents and address them after Parliament closes.
“The causes of the tremors as well as their short and long term effects cannot be ascertained at the moment. At this stage it is suspected that the cause of the tremors is from fall of ground on the old mine workings,” he said.
He was answering the Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse who asked him to update the House on the earth tremors in the area and if he was aware that they had increased in frequency and intensity, residents lived in fear and anxiety, some houses cracked or were cracking as a result of the tremors and that injuries had been sustained from affected residential houses.
Meanwhile, the Assistant minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Itumeleng Moipisi told the Parliament there were reported cases of house cracking in Palapye Extensions 5, 6, 7 and 9 suspected to be due to poor soil structures.
“It is true that BGI has been engaged to undertake Geotechnicalv Study on the area to identify and assess potential and natural constraints as they impact on development and infrastructure provision and affect future land use planning. The study is still on-going and expected to be complemented by September 2019,” he said.
He explained that upon conclusion of the study, the outcome of the geo-technical study will be availed or share with the residents through the available government institutions such as council, district administration, Land Board, tribal administration to mention a few.
Molale also stated that the results would inform government on what actions to take to address the situation residents find themselves in. He added that possible options include relocation or recommendation of construction methods that will withstand the conditions.