International explorers with high appetite for copper mining have descended on Botswana ground to explore the untapped area of Kalahari Copper Belt whose underground soil is proven to have hid the treasurous red metal.
The Kalahari Copper Belt is said to contain millions of tonnes of copper and silver resources inside the 1,000-kilometre belt running south west to north east and foreign companies are already pouring billions of Pula in investment. This is despite government of Botswana shutting down a copper operation, BCL, citing failure of copper in the markets and the mine’s inability to be financially sustainably. BCL has been left flat on the ground and currently going through a controversial process of liquidation which is now on its third year; politicians and commentators alike are pointing a sharp finger at government as copper is now the new thing with the advent of Asia’s electric vehicles boom.
Recently international exploration companies have come out with their machinery and have eventually found a new home in the Kalahari Copper Belt. There are two mines on the offing at the Kalahari Copper Belt – the T3 (Motheo) project of Tshukudu Metals Botswana and the Zone 5 project of Khoemacau Copper Mining. These projects are expected to take off by 2020.
The most recent company showing desire for Botswana copper is the Australian copper producer Sandfire Resources which has even taken a bold step of engulfing a fellow Australian copper explorer MOD Resources, an entity with copper rights in this country. Sandfire will take over MOD together with its Botswana businesses or subsidiaries.
MOD Resources, listed on the ASX and LSE, owns the T3 copper project in Botswana where a prefeasibility study estimated that the project would require a capital investment of P1.5 billion for development of an open pit operation and a plant with a 2.5-million-tonne-a-year throughput capacity, producing 23 000 t/y copper and 690 000 oz/y of silver in concentrate.
Sanfire Resources’ cornerstone asset is the high-grade, low cost DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Australia. According to the company, it also has an interest in the Black Butte copper project in Montana, USA. Before having an eye on African or Botswana, Sandfire is strategically focused on exploring for and bringing on new production that can in the short run augment its current production and in the long run, replace production as DeGrussa production diminishes and ultimately ceases.
Now Sandfire is aiming for the “highly prospective, dominant landholding on the underexplored Kalahari copper belt in Botswana.” According to information from the Australian bourse, combination of Sandfire and MOD leverages the strengths of both companies to both optimise and de-risk development.
According to information seen by this publication, the T3 Project in Botswana meets Sandfire's investment criteria, including returns, cost profile, scale, life and upside potential. This also represents an attractive premium for MOD shareholders, whilst providing a funding solution for the development of T3 and retaining exposure to MOD’s significant exploration potential, according to information received.
Competition Authority has recently received a merger notification for the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital of MOD Resources by Sandfire Resources. The local antitrust body is interested in this acquisition due to MOD’s control on Botswana listed entities which will be involved in this transaction as subsidiaries or shareholders. MOD controls MOD Resource Botswana which owns Tshukudu Metals Botswana.
Tshukudu Metals Botswana is a company incorporated in accordance with the Laws of the Republic of Botswana. Tshukudu Metal does not directly or indirectly control any firm in Botswana. According to Competition Authority, Tshukudu Metals is a mineral exploration company and currently does not provide any service or sell any products into or from Botswana. Its shareholders do not own shares in any other Botswana company.
The Directors of Tshukudu Metals are: Leutlwetse Tumelo; Gabaikangwe Chinyepi (both Batswana); Julian Phillip Hanna; and Mark Andre Clements (both Australians). MOD also controls Tshukudu Exploration Botswana whose directors are the same as those of Tshukudu Metals. Even though Tshukudu is a company registered in this country it does not directly or indirectly control any firm in Botswana. Though Tshukudu Explorations has not commenced trading, it is a mineral exploration company. Its shareholders also do not own shares in any other company incorporated in Botswana.
One of MOD’s local directors did Leutlwetse Tumelo want to divulge the details of the Sandfire takeover to BusinessPost. He only said, “the acquisition of MOD Resources by Sandfire is still going through some key regulatory approval processes. Until these processes are completed we cannot disclose more details around the transaction.”
Khoemacau bets billions on Kalahari Copper Belt
At last year’s Botswana Resource Sector Conference (BRSC) it was discussed that the Kalahari Copper Belt has a huge potential of becoming the copper hub of Botswana. But it will continue to be dwarfed by the gigantic production of the Central African Copperbelt of Zambia and the DRC. Those who speak for diversification from another mineral, to move from diamonds, hope for copper to take over-but it is still too far according to experts. Copper stands in a pole position at this time of the revolution of Asian markets demanding the red metal for electric vehicles manufacturing.
The Kalahari Copper Belt is referred as a ‘corridor’ of sediment-hosted copper/silver mineralization extending south-west from Maun in Botswana through to the Namibian border and beyond. The copper belt however has its mishaps. In 2015 February, 422 workers who went out to mine for a better life in the Kalahari had their hopes abruptly cut down when Boseto mine was closed.
Owners of the Boseto mine, Discovery Metals Limited, had spent P1.75 billion on the project had to endure the slump of copper demand and prices in those years, but the mine is said to have been put on a deathbed by over-reliance on the unsustainable diesel generation which contributed to 35 percent of the mine’s operating costs. The Boseto mine used 17.1 million litres of diesel in generating its electricity, spending P26 million monthly, leading to its mothball.
The US-based Cupric Canyon Capital with its subsidiary Khoemacau Copper Mining purchased Boseto mine in 2015 including a new 3 Mt/a concentrator which was commissioned in 2012 by Australia’s Discovery Metals, and a Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). Cupric Canyon Capital has already spent almost P7.3 billion on the Kalahari Copper Belt for the Khoemacau mine. It is recently projected that Khoemacau copper production will increase to 62.000 metric tonnes while that of silver to 1.9 million ounces silver annually.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi evidently ushered the closure of the BCL copper mine in 2016 while still a vice president. But when ushering the opening of Khoemacau recently, Masisi is a man who now speaks with a renewed heart showing a lot of hope in the future of copper as an economic factor in the case of the newly reopened copper mine.
At a time when copper markets were raising most skepticism, government decided to put BCL on a sick bed and (government) claimed that it could not afford to fund the mine. That time Masisi stood firm and defended government’s decision to put the mine on liquidation as the most prudent. But his words and decisions have come back to haunt him and his presidency as copper is now in demand.
“The future looks bright for copper mining as the global forecasts indicated that copper demand globally was expected to exceed supply by mid-2020s because there was a surging growth from the power and utilities sector especially in China, India and other Asian nations,” said Masisi during the r recent opening of Khoemacau Mine.
When addressing attendees during the opening of Khoemacau Masisi said more than P4 billion was dedicated to be spent between 2018 and 2021 for developing the necessary infrastructure required to operate. He further touted Khoemacau to come with revenue of P10 billion over its 22 year operational life from 2021-2042, a tax revenue of P700 million and the creation of about 1200 jobs during the first phase including 1663 jobs on average per year as well as 883 direct jobs.
While appetite on copper mining and production is growing rapidly, latest figures show that there has been an unsettling trend of falling copper prices in recent months. From a huge fall in price in the end of last year December, copper prices rose from $2.62/lb to $2.96/lb after February this year. This year the month of August shows it is a month of lows in the copper market.
Expects say this is due to US President Donald Trump last week statement that he would impose more tariffs on Chinese import and the Oriental giant retaliating that it will fight back, ending a month-long trade truce between the world’s two biggest economies. The failure of truce also further fuels the two nations’ long standing trade war.
China and its Asian brothers supply the world, including America, with electric vehicles and a lot of goods that uses copper. Hence a spike in tariffs by US means less production of copper using goods in Asia which also results in less demand for copper, subsequently red metal prices go down. The copper prices have been sharply plummeting since the end of July. At the wake of last week Trump announcement on tariffs prices went to the lows at $2.57/lb on 4 August. However there is a positive trend this week, much to the interest of copper producers, on Wednesday this week the prices even reached a high of $2.61/lb.
Parliament last week adopted the new National Energy Policy, a blueprint crafted to catapult Botswana to an industrial hub of alternative and renewable energy.
Presented by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Lefoko Maxwell Moagi, the policy was hailed by lawmakers from both the ruling party and opposition ranks as long overdue.
Moagi, who is also Member of Parliament for Ramotswa, explained that the National Energy Policy (NEP) is intended to guide the management and development of Botswana’s energy sector, especially the penetration of new and renewable energy sources into the country’s energy mix in order to attain energy self-sufficiency and increased security of supply.
“The NEP is expected to create a conducive environment that will not only facilitate investment in the energy sector but also add value to export revenues, facilitate production in other sectors of the economy and create employment within the energy sector,” he said.
Moagi said that the new policy will set a foundation that will steer the utilization of locally available energy resources optimally and efficiently to ensure that Botswana attains a sustainable and low carbon economic development.
Botswana has experienced some constraints in the energy sector in recent years, which to some extent have negatively impacted the country’s economic development prospects.
A devastating power supply and demand mismatch was encountered between the years 2008 and 2014, and this breached the country’s power supply security even to date.
Moagi noted that this encounter, and other such misfortunes have motivated the new policy to outline the principles, prospects and choices that are required to optimise the role of energy in the economy and maximise Botswana’s potential for the desired economic growth in line with the country’s Vision 2036.
Commenting on the Policy Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said the new energy roadmap would contribute towards achievement of national prosperity and economic diversification.
“This envisages Botswana’s transition from being a net energy importer to being self-sufficient and having surplus energy for export into the region, we applaud the minister for bringing this important document,” Tsogwane said.
Botswana has abundant coal resources, estimated at about 212 billion tonnes. Estimates of 196 trillion cubic feet of coal bed methane (CBM) have also been recorded and there is ongoing exploration of this resource.
Most of the coal extracted goes to power generation at Morupule power plant and the remaining small percentage is shared between local industrial use and export.
For CBM, commercially viable gas exploration is required to firm up resource quantification and associated development programs around this resource.
Botswana receives over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year, with an average insolation on a flat surface of 21MJ/m2.
Satellite images have revealed that Botswana has abundant countrywide irradiation presenting the highest values of direct normal irradiance (DNI) and global horizontal irradiance (GHI) the western and south-western regions, with a slight decrease towards the east.
The lowest values of irradiation are in a range of about 2,000 kWh/m²/annum (~5, 5 kWh/m²/day) DNI and GHI on average. This amount of insolation is among the highest in the world, making solar energy a promising renewable energy resource for Botswana.
Reasonable wind speeds exist within the country with the highest wind resources potential located in the South-West, Central and Eastern parts of the country, with averaging wind speeds above 7m/s, wind power density above 200W/m2 and annual energy production above 4.5 GWh/year.
The wind potential has not been fully explored and has primarily been used on windmills for water pumping by farmers.
Botswana has theoretical biomass energy potential of 32 million GJ per year, estimated from a considerable biomass potential of 20 million tonnes per year.
The use of livestock residues (cow-dung) seems to offer the highest practical opportunity for energy production in Botswana, while municipal solid waste (MSW) can also contribute to the improvement of energy generation, especially at the city level.
Other residues such as crop and agro-industrial residues, only offer a limited energy potential that could be tapped by rural communities.
Botswana is highly reliant on imports of refined petroleum products to meet the liquid fuels demand since the country does not have any proven crude oil reserves/refineries.
By far, a large amount of liquid fuels supply comes from South Africa. As at 2018, the local consumption of petroleum products stood at about 1.2 billion litres per annum for petrol, diesel and illuminating paraffin combined, and about 20 million litres of aviation fuels per annum.
Commenting on the National Energy Policy, opposition members of parliament said effective implementation of the policy would require a legislation and/or regulations for robust development of the new and renewable energy subsector.
Moagi reiterated that the provision of energy services is capital intensive and heavily reliant on technology. “It is thus important to come up with innovative ways of delivering these services”
Currently, there is no research institution dedicated to carrying out energy research and development (R&D) to inform policy.
However, there exists various institutions or think tanks that carry out energy research from various perspectives.
These include Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), the University of Botswana (UB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), and Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH).
Moagi shared that however regrettably, there is neither a clearly defined collaboration among and/or between these researchers nor is there any between the researchers, the industry and the policy makers.
Recognising that coordination of efforts in R&D is key to promoting innovation, technology application and development for deployment of appropriate modern energy services; the NEP seeks to aid coordination of research activities in the energy sector as well as facilitate development and establishment of academic/industry strategic research alliances.
Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.
In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications. It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.
Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.
Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.
Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.
Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so. “Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.
When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.
Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board. The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.
Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.
He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner. BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.
According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.
Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.
He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.
This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.
On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.
Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force. “It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.
The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.
In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.
The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.
On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.
“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.
“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”
The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.
Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.
Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.
“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.
PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.
“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.
The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.
Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer. He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.
With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.
“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.
BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.
“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.
Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”
He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.
“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.