Khoeamacau, Botswana’s highly anticipated copper and silver mining project was officially kick started by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi this week.
At a ground breaking and official opening ceremony held at the mine sites located in the North East district of Botswana, President Masisi said the operation’s full swing mode into construction brings investor confidence to the mine’s funders and generally Batswana who have been waiting patiently for the project to take shape.
Khoemacau resurrects the nation’s copper industry after the demise of one of Southern Africa’s prolific and oldest copper & nickel operations, BCL in October 2016. BCL was liquidated following commodity prices fall and allegedly poor investment decisions by company management.
Khoemacau‘s official ground breaking follows a P6 billion pula investment into the mine by various investors revealed early this year. The funding package announced in March this year comprised of US$275 million (P2.9 billion) senior debt facility from Red Kite Mine Finance and a US$265 million (P2.8 billion) silver stream from Royal Gold AG a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Gold, and a US$25 million (P263 million) subordinated debt facility also from Royal Gold.
Cupric Canyon, Khoemacau Copper Mining parent company has been developing 4,040 square kilometre land stretched project for the past 6 years. One of the deposits within the Khoemacau Project, Zone 5, was initially discovered in 2012 and has since become the flagship deposit after being acquired by the company in 2013.
Since acquiring deposits Khoemacau has drilled 285,000 metres, completed permitting and land access agreements, secured the required power and water, and undertaken advanced engineering, procurement and mobilization to site. In 2015, the company acquired the Boseto assets a previously operated copper project adjacent to Zone 5 following liquidation of Australian Base metal outfit Discovery Metals Botswana.
This acquisition offered the company access to the 3.0 million tonnes per annum Boseto processing facility located 35 kilometres from Zone 5 along with extensive infrastructure, and various mineral resources and licenses. Since acquisition, the Boseto assets have been incorporated into the Starter Project development plan.
The Starter Project development plan now involves the fully mechanized underground mining of sulphide ores at Zone 5 at a rate of 3.6 million tonnes per annum using the upgraded Boseto processing facility for crushing, milling, flotation and production of a high-grade copper silver concentrate. The Starter Project is expected to produce a high quality copper concentrate with an average grade of approximately 40 percent copper and high-grade silver.
This according to information from the company will results in annual average production of 62,000 tonnes copper and 1.9 million ounces silver per annum over a 21-year mine life. The average life-of mine C1 cash costs, net of silver by-product credits, are US$1.47/lb at consensus pricing and US$1.67/lb including sustaining capex, and before accounting for the silver stream
At the ground breaking ceremony Khoemacau officials revealed that over P10 billion in profits is expected from the Copper Mine over its 21 year operational lifespan from 2021-2042.It was also noted that over P2.8 billion will be paid to government through royalties during the mine ‘s lifespan . Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) is alone expected to cash in over P700 million in declared tax revenue from the operation.
Last month Cupric Canyon Chief Executive Officer, Johan Ferreira told Botswana Resource Sector Conference that the royalty estimates came from preliminary results of the ongoing study the mine is currently undertaking through KPMG.Ferreira further shared that for its entire 21 years of the operation Khoemacau will have over P90 billion impact on Botswana’s gross domestic product(GDP)
When officially opening the mine President Masisi said the investment by Cupric Canyon Capital was prove to Botswana’s attractiveness to foreign direct investment (FDI) , as well as an explicit expression of confidence in the government policies and easy of doing business initiatives. At full operation post first copper dispatch into the market Khoemacau is expected to create over 3000 Jobs direct and indirectly.
This according to President Masisi proves the project’s socio economic impact in Ngamiland and entire North East district. He noted that value chain opportunities and related industries would emerge once the mine is in full operation, such as logistics, hospitality, giving a significant boost to local Small Medium Enterprises (SMMEs). Various ancillary infrastructure such as roads, electricity, telecommunications, fibre optic networks, WiFi, are also expected to be set up, equipping the region with permanent economic components.
"An economic activity of this magnitude will therefore go a long way in reducing poverty for many of the communities in this area. Therefore the opening of this mine could not have come at a more appropriate time," he said. Khoemacau Copper Mining previously known as Hana Ghanzi Copper is a subsidiary of Cupric Canyon Capital Plc. The company has been exploring and developing the Ghantsi-Chobe Copper Silver Project located in the Kalahari copper belt within the Ghantsi and Ngamiland Districts
Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status. The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.
This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago. In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.
However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced. Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.
The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.
On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April. For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.
The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.
Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.
Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).
“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.
Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.
This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.
For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.
Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers. “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.
‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’
According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.
Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.
“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.