Government’s stake in the Mining Sector, particularly in mining and mineral processing companies is being transferred to state owned Mineral Development Company Botswana (MDCB) and the process is almost complete, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang has told parliament.
Mineral Development Company, MDCB (PTY) LTD is a company wholly owned by the Botswana Government. The mandate of MDCB is the effective management and optimization of the government mineral investment portfolio in the mining industry. Established in 2015, MDCB fully fleshed and resourced will manage all government shares in the lucrative mining sector. When delivering his Ministry Budget last week in parliament Kebonang said capacitating of the MDCB to fulfill its mandate was ongoing.
“An adequately capacitated MDCB will enable the company to effectively manage Government shareholding in mineral companies,” he said. The Lobatse youthful legislator told parliament that transactions for the transfer of assets from Government of Botswana to MDCB have been completed for Morupule Coal Mine, Debswana Investment SA and BCL.
“The process of transferring the remaining assets namely, Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB), Debswana Diamond Company and Botswana Ash have just started,” revealed Minister Kebonang.He further told parliament that the process was expected to be concluded during 2017.
Under the Mineral Development Company it is expected that managing the government’s mineral sector portfolio would be made easy and more effective as the government stake and interest will be in the hands of a private sector setup that understands the processes and technical knowhow of profit making assets management better. “Capacitating the company is also ongoing with a board in place, the Chief Executive Officer already appointed and recruiting of other staff to build a reputable mineral & mining assets management corporation is in good progress,” Kebonang told WeekendPost in an interview this week.
When it commenced operations MDCB immediately took over government shares in BCL, a move said to have been easy as Botswana Government was the largest shareholder with a controlling stake of over 90 %. Mid 2016 before the shocking news of BCL liquidation MDCB bought out Botswana-DeBeers joint venture Debswana Mining Company from Morupule Colliery Mine (MC).
According to ongoing plans theCorporation willsoon sit in a boardroom with Anglo American as it isreplacing government in Debswana Diamond Mining Company, one of the wealthiest mining companies in the world. The Government of Botswana owns a 50% stake in Debswana which owns Jwaneng Mine which is the world’s richest mine by value and Orapa Letlhakane & Damtshaa Mines. Orapa plant is the World’s largest diamond processing plant. Once the transfer of Shares is Complete MDCBwill also control Botswana’s 50% stake in Diamond Trading Company, Botswana Ash as well as 15% of Botswana Government in the De Beers Group.
Mineral Development Company Management
Reginah Sikalesele-Vaka is the Board Chairperson of Mineral Development Corporation. Vaka is a renowned financial expert and insurance industry guru and the founding Chief Executive of Bona Life, Botswana’s 1st citizen owned Life Insurance Company. Vaka is expected to guide the Botswana mineral sector lucrative ship to diversity and maximum beneficiation. Once MDCB holds all government shares in the mining sector the company is expected to transform the entire mineral sector and also make investments to create wealth and increase state revenues.
Other MDCB Board members include former State President Sir Ketumile Masire’s son Mmetla Masire. Masire, an environmental engineering guru by academic qualifications is currently also handling a task with a day to day job of transforming Botswana’s national water supplier, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC ) which is currently holding a record of one the most perennial loss making businesses in Botswana.
Vaka also sits with Sebetlela Sebetlela, one of Botswana’s renowned mining experts. Sebetlela currently is chairman of BPC board, he has literally captained all mining companies in Botswana, from Orapa, Tati to Jwaneng just to name a few.Other MDCB board members include MatomeTsholetsa, Country Manager for Joy Global Inc.
The Chief Executive Officer of MDCB is Paul Smith, a renowned mining sector profit maximizing guru with footprint across Africa. Smith made his name in South Africa’s lucrative Platinum mining sector. Last year, immediately after government acquired a 50 % stake of Morupule Colliery Mine, Smith allegedly got the ball rolling to mastermind the liquidation of Botswana’s oldest Mining Company, BCL. BCL was put under provisional liquidation on October 9th 2016.Smith, according to media publications is one of, if not the highest paid CEOs in Botswana alongside BPC Chief Executive Officer with over P100 000 as take home per month.
Minerals sector performance
According to Minister Kebonang the mining industry experienced a global commodity price downturn over most of the first two quarters of 2016, in mainly the base metals and energy minerals. However, diamond markets improved during the first quarter of 2016 and this resulted in actual sales exceeding production due to sale of inventory from the year 2015.
“Mineral revenue (dividends and royalties) for 2016 increased by 63% when compared to 2015. The average percentage contribution of minerals to GDP during second quarter of 2016 was 21.8% compared to 18.4% in 2015,” parliament heard last week. Debswana Diamond Company produced 20.9 million carats in 2016 compared to 20.4 million carats in 2015. Sales were 26.3 million carats compared to 14.7 million carats in 2015. Revenue from these sales was USD 3.9 billion and this compared favourably to USD 2.4 billion in 2015.
Kebonang also reported that Boteti Mining Company produced 307 thousand carats in 2016 compared to 377 thousand carats in 2015. “Boteti upgraded their processing plant, which enabled them to recover exceptionally large stones. Despite the volatile diamond markets, Boteti mine continue to perform well,” he said.
Ghaghoo Diamond Mine produced 20.6 thousand carats in 2016. Lerala Mine resumed production in April 2016 and has so far produced 58.5 thousand carats and so far made two sales. The performance of base metal mines continued to decline in 2016 due to depressed commodity prices.
Copper and nickel prices showed improvement from US$ 2.06/lb to US$ 2.65/lb for copper and US$ 3.80/lb to US$ 5.20/lb for nickel respectively from December 2015 to December 2016. However the prices remain a challenge for the marginal operations. BCL and Tati Nickel Mining Company were placed under provisional liquidation in October 2016 due to severe financial distress.
Kebonang is of the view that there are notable developments in the energy minerals sub-sector as companies continue to show interest in the energy minerals. “For instance, A-Cap Resources and African Energy Resources Botswana have acquired mining licenses for uranium at Sese and coal at Makomoto, respectively.”
Kebonang said MDCB will be looking to invest inorder to diversify government revenue within the mining sector to reduce dependence in the Diamond segment. Soda Ash and Salt sales were 288.5 thousand tonnes and 435 thousand tonnes respectively in 2016 compared to 258.9 thousand tonnes and 368.9 thousand tonnes for corresponding figures in 2015. Currently Production of soda ash and salt continues to be constrained by low off-take.
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.
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.
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”