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Mowana Mine halts operations over financial constraints

Mowana Mine located in the vicinity of Dukwi and Mosetse villages adjacent to the second city of Francistown is reported to have put its operations on halt due to constraints over working capital.

The company which reopened last year after closing down in 2015 has been struggling to meet operational obligation such as paying employees’ salaries and production suppliers amongst others, BusinessPost has established.
The mine resumed production in March 2017 after being purchased by Leboam Holdings from its liquidator.

Briefing a full session of Tutume Sub-council early this year the mine’s then General Manager, Mr Sebele Molalapata said the mine was Leboam’s flagship copper operation with the company planning to turn around it into a vibrant and leading copper producer in the region. Ever since resuming operation Mowana Mine has been facing challenges ranging from managerial, technical and financial limitations as the company had to refurbish the mine structures as well as the machinery which was worn out as a result of the two-year closure.

The company then had to face occupational challenges in the areas of safety and environmental compliance which further hiked the operational cost at the same time putting a slow down on production and making targeted outputs even further farfetched.  “The new ownership inherited abandoned mining works, and this stalled our targeted production outputs , further stretching our balance sheet as we had to revitalize the whole earth moving plants and refurbish the machinery , equipments and some components of the processing plant,” shared the Mine MD in July this year.

Mowana then secured a conditional 40 million pula working capital facility from Fujax Minerals and Energy Limited, from which it has since drawn it down to 10 million pula. On Tuesday the company revealed that it had however reached a dead end with Fujax as they could not agree over collateral when the mining firm wanted to drawdown the rest of the facility.

“We thought it would only be fair to suspend operations while we try and explore other ways of securing funding. Our hope is that the situation will be resolved soon and we can be able to restart operations,” said Mowana’s current General Manager, Dominic Doherty on Tuesday.
Mowana has production capacity of 12,000 tonnes per annum, but has since resuming operation only reached a maximum of 140 tonnes as of October this year compared to the targeted 392 tonnes.

Reports further indicate that the company has since not been able to take advantage of stable global copper commodity prices as it still continues to face equipment breakdowns which result in frequent production stoppages. Mowana mine has been the only copper mine running in Botswana, after the country’s flagship copper-nickel mine, BCL faced its demise in 2016 following government’s decision to close the mine and put it up for liquidation.

Another copper mine, Bosetu located in the North West also closed down in 2013 when its owner then, Australian Discovery Metals expressed no intention for further inject capital and instead decided to place it under liquidation. Bosetu Mine has since been bought by Khoemacau and is expected to output salable copper by late 2019 or early 2020. Khoemacau is one of the companies exploring and moving to mine copper and other base metals in the Kalahari Copper Belt.

Other companies with  major undertakings in the Kalahari Copper Belt are  Tshukudu Metals a subsidiary of Metal Tiger, the latter is one of the world‘s reputable companies in the area of mining base metals. The company is at advanced explorations of the lucrative copper belt which covers areas around Ghandzi district.

Despite challenges some of these exploration companies face, especially in raising capital for their operations as well as running companies like in the case of Mowana, observers say it is not over yet for Botswana copper-nickel industry which faced a halt 2 years back due to predominantly depreciation of global commodity prices.

Charles Siwawa, an internationally recognized and seasoned mining expert who is also Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Chamber of Mines is of the view that in the near future Botswana will bounce back and be recognized amongst the likes of DRC and Zambia when it comes to copper mining industry. “The Kalahari Copper belt will give us long profitable mines with life span of 20-30 years employing thousands of our skilled and non skilled personnel,” he said at the Botswana Resources Sector Conference held in June this year.

Apart from the traditional Copper-Nickel and Coal which has been complementing the lucrative diamonds sector , Botswana’s flagship mining sector for some years , it was also revealed in more business sense terms that Botswana soils are also covering reserves of some of the most valuable industrial minerals. These includes amongst others Lead, Zinc, silver, vanadium and manganese deposits which exploration experts classify as some of the world‘s high grade deposits.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.

He was speaking in  Parliament on Tuesday delivering  Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a  motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.

The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.

The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.

The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.

This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.

Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.

Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.

However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.

Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.

When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.

This  as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.

Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.

The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.

Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.

In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.

Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.

Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.

Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.

Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance   Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”

He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”

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