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BCL mine on the verge of becoming white elephant

Publishing Date : 10 December, 2018

Author : TSAONE SEGAETSHO

If the current boiling impasse between the BCL liquidator, Nijel Dixon-Warren and the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Security, Eric Molale is anything to go by, next year the mine will be left to be a white elephant dumped by the two parties on the feet of Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas’ people.


 Last week Minister Molale revealed that BCL liquidation will be closed down in June 2019, but there are underlying and daunting issues to be dealt with. Adding to BCL woes is the recent information reaching BusinessPost revealing that the mine is currently countenancing an Environmental Rehabilitation Liability of P3 billion and this makes the mine less attractive to potential investors. This is the money that should be paid for environmental insurance and investors should assume the costs if government or previous owners have not paid.


However, the recent development which emanated into a spat between the liquidator and government was because the latter does not want to pay more for the liquidation. But there is another alternative to reduce the liability; by taking a risk of buying the mine and thrive on rising nickel prices and the recent revolution of electric vehicle-battery mineral. However, as much as a new buyer could be enticed to restart the mines and the smelter, this could take five more years.


It is alleged that the machinery and shafts at the mine are slowly deteriorating and there is flooding underground, something which will also scare away potential buyers. Information reaching this publication is that about 45 bidders have shown interest in the BCL mine and most of them have failed to impress the liquidator. Currently,Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Security Eric Molale and BCL liquidatorNigel Dixon-Warren have fallen out and observers believe this impasse will not end well as far as the mine’s future is concerned.


Dixon-Warren is demanding more money in order to facilitate care and maintenance of the mine so that it does not lose shape and is able torecommence operations at a later date. However, Molale rebuffed the liquidator’s demand and this led Dixon-Warren opting to maximize costs by reducing the care and maintenance staff at BCL.


This has chagrined the minerals minister who openly told parliament that there is need to get rid of Dixon-Warren as he has made the mine a hazardous hub “the shafts have been flooded, people are exposed to danger of working under unsafe conditions.”Government wants Dixon-Warren to sell the mine to any private entity interested.


The Botswana government closed the mine two years ago because it was costly and during that time the mine needed P2 billion for its lifeline. In the ongoing liquidation, government has so far forked out P1.1 billion for paying former employees benefits and care and maintenance and the liquidator want that money to be topped up. Molale is shying out on giving the liquidator more concurring with opposing legislators last week that the liquidator want to rip the government off.


In this liquidation, Dixon-Warren has so far pocketed over P42.3 million in over twenty months, averaging P2.2 million monthly in fees. He told this publication few months back that contrary to popular belief, the money does not go all to his pocket but to the liquidation process.
Asking a question with apparent skepticism before parliament, Selibe Phikwe West Legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse wanted to know if Dixon-Warren is adequately protecting the assets of BCL, whether his is to protect the interests of the public or only creditors.


 A lot of parliamentarians believe the liquidator is wasteful and should be fired, something which is said to be in Molale’s mind. Molale suggested that there is bad blood between government and the liquidator. Of the deteriorating situation at BC, Molale highlighted the liquidator’s competence and said: “I am faced with a precarious situation at the mines. The shafts have been flooded; people are exposed to danger of working under unsafe conditions.”


“The story of Phikwe is sad. The first problem was closure of BCL which threw people into instant destitution,” said Keorapetse. Efforts to interview Dixon-Warren failed because he is now not allowed to talk to the media but the Master of High Court can do the interview on his behalf. Registrar and Master of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi would not talk to this publication on a telephone interview but rather asked for an email inquiry. He however did not respond to our questions before press time.

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