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Keorapetse accuses Warren of sinking BCL

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse has called on Government particularly Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security to intervene in crises he terms “soiling of BCL value”. Keorapetse says BCL mine which was closed in October 2016 deteriorates everyday under liquidator Nigel Dixion Warren posing a serious threat to the value of the mine and making it unattractive to potential investors day after day.

BACKGROUND ON BCL CLOSURE

BCL faced its demise in October 2016 when government took a drastic decision to place the mine under provisional liquidation. Official reasons from the sole shareholder was that copper and nickel were poorly performing on the international market, and that BCL was running at perennial losses  making it too steep for government to continue with recapitalisation.

After taking over as provisional liquidation in 2016 Nigel Dixon Warren, tasked with the safe and proper dissolution of BCL Group sent over 5000 BCL workers packing and immediately announced the reinstatement of 400 employees. The retained workers remained onsite undertaking the care and maintenance of the mine shafts, equipment and the smelter. At liquidation BCL assets were valued at over P10 billion with the smelter alone valued at over P3 billion.

Care and maintenance is a term used in the mining industry to describe processes and conditions on a closed mine site where there is potential to recommence operations at a later date. During a care and maintenance phase, production is stopped but the site is managed to ensure it remains in a safe and stable condition. In the case of BCL, the care and maintenance process involved safe dewatering of the mine underground shafts and high level management of environmental risks.

The retained workers were tasked with maintenance of the smelter, ore processing plant, equipment and most importantly securing the mine assets and the whole site. This was initiated with a view that BCL which has been in operation for the past 40 years before closure would rise to economic feasibility upon recovery of copper and nickel commodity prices in the global market.

Botswana Chamber of Mines Chief Executive Officer Charles Siwawa, a renowned mining expert shared with this publication in 2016 that the mine could still be operational under a restructured business model, explaining that the underground resource still contained high grade ore deposits is some BCL shaft. “Care and maintenance is a pivotal undertaking in the liquidation process of a complex and large scale industrial company like BCL , it will be vital to safeguard the value of the mine and prevent deterioration of its assets  which  could later compromise the mine’s worth before potential investors”

CURRENT STATUS OF THE MINE

However two years later after BCL closure the Area MP says under the current status of BCL and custodianship of Nigel Dixon Warren it will be difficult for government to find any interested investor, who would recommence operation of the mine and bring Phikwe back to life.
He particularly eludes that BCL Liquidator is doing a poor job as far as safeguarding the mine value and its asset. Recently reports have been coming in , suggesting that there are earth tremors felt from underground causing fears and suspicion that Phikwe and surrounding areas might collapse in due time.

According to reports from Phikwe a rumbling sound hits the town and surrounding areas on a regular basis, both during the day and at night, discharging some quakes and waves that shake buildings and resident houses. Keorapetse says safe for safety and environmental ramification, the experienced tremors signals complete decay of the mine‘s underground components as Nigel Dixon Warren is failing dismally to capacitate and monitor effective protection and safeguarding of the BCL assets.

Recently Liquidator relieved some of the care and maintenance employ of their duties on the basis that the wage bill was stretching his allocated funds, a decision that received backlash from observers and commentators. Former BCL mine geologist told WeekendPost this week that “ineffective dewatering of the underground shaft would result in complete decomposition of the mine making it extremely difficult to resuscitate the mine to operation once identified investors avails the funds.

 “It will be extremely costly to return back BCL to operation if  the care maintenance  employ  is doing a shoddy job , if the   underground assets lose value by day BCL might never be reopened” he said. Keorapetse further dismisses a team assembled by Department of Mines to investigate the issue saying they lack the technical ability to handle such a highly technical study.

“We have been informed that Minister Molale has dispatched a team of Department of Mines to Phikwe. I’m also informed that the team has been asking people in the town some questions regarding the tremor; this is laughable because this is not a sociological, Economic, demographic survey, it is a complex scientific study that should involve geotechnical engineers or rock mechanics,” she said. According to Keorapetse the authorities sent to Phikwe do not have the necessary expertise and experience to conduct proper investigation as well as technical knowhow.

“There is no Geotechcial Engineer/Rock mechanics engineer at the Department of Mines that can do proper investigations. Going around interviewing people presupposes that the authorities are clueless and incompetent and cannot help with providing answers to what is happening,” he said. The Phikwe West lawmaker saidno one can help with this phenomenon apart from ex-BCL employees or experts sourced from outside government.

He said Liquidator has decided to run the Care and Maintenance process with expatriates who do not have the right skills citing the current General Manager overseeing Care and Maintenance who according to him is not a mining engineer by profession. “He is a misplaced expatriate and can’t help us take a good care of this important national asset. We need institutional memory to handle a complex environment like BCL,” reiterated the Phikwe legislator.

He suggested that exercises by Liquidator to lay off some care and maintenance staff last year December got rid of all skilled and experienced staff that were heading the shafts and replaced them with people that are fresh from school. “What is he trying to achieve from that? Obviously it’s cost cutting at the expense of Care and Maintenance. I call upon department of mines and labour to do serious audit of labour requirements for such a technically complex and high risk undertaking of Care and Maintenance of BCL mine,” he said.

During the last sitting of parliament Minister of Mineral Resources Eric Molale told legislators that he was in a process to part ways with BCL Liquidator but was prevented by the law as liquidator was appointed by the High Court. “We may need to relook at the law; I don’t think someone who has spent years in accounting should be permitted to take care of anything to do with mining at that scale without being at least compelled to hire specified highly specialized technical staff. Everyday BCL is becoming unattractive to potential investors because it’s deteriorating under the Liquidator” reiterated Keorapetse.

Nigel Dixon Warren has since rubbished Keorapetse‘s claims saying he had confidence in his stuff. Dixon Warren said dewatering of the underground shafts was progressing well. He denied claimed that there was some blasting being carried out underground also adding that it is far-fetched to suggest any of the shafts could collapse when they did not do so during the mining years when blasting occurred daily. Department of Mines told WeekendPost on Wednesday that a team of experts is on the ground conducting investigation at the mine which would inform how government progress going forward.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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