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.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.