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In-pit mining halted at Lerala mine

Australian gem miner Kimberley Diamonds has halted work and flagged retrenchments at Lerala diamond mine as it looks to cut costs while it processes excess ore stockpiles.

There have been incorrect media reports that the mine has been closed, but the company moved in to clarify the basil read. The contracted mining company has been advised to suspend pit operations at one kimberlitic pipe.

“Mining operations at the Lerala Diamond Mine, which are conducted by external contractor, Basil Read, have continued to date at rates exceeding the plant’s current ability to process feed, which has resulted in the development of a large ore stockpile,” KDL said in a market update.

“As a result, Lerala has asked Basil Read to temporarily suspend their pit mining operations in the K3 kimberlitic pipe to allow Lerala to process and reduce these stockpiles to reasonable levels,” it added.

KDL highlighted that Basil Read has now temporarily ceased all in-pit operations until further notice, however their operations to provide feed from stockpiles to the ROM and into the plant, continue.

“The plant remains in production and produces diamonds every day. Lerala expects the suspension of in-pit operations to continue for approximately 3-4 months or until stockpiles are reduced and mining is required to re-commence.”

“This is a cost saving measure while Lerala implements the performance improvement plan, and is not anticipated to impact on our expected production levels,” KDL stated.

Lerala Diamond has been operating the recommissioned diamond processing plant at the Lerala Diamond Mine, since Quarter 4, 2016. Lerala identified some shortcomings in certain pre-existing elements of the plant, which combined with the highly abrasive character of the internal waste within the kimberlitic ore, has significantly impacted the plant’s ability to operate at maximum capacity on a consistent basis.

The improvement plan was aimed at addressing shortcomings in certain pre-existing elements of the plant, which combined with the highly abrasive character of the internal waste within the kimberlite ore, has impacted the plant’s ability to operate at maximum capacity on a consistent basis.

Although this improvement plan has only recently commenced, the following positive milestones have been achieved to date: the Vibrating Grizzly Feeder was substantially upgraded to improve material flow from the headfeed bin; the CDX X-ray recovery machine was recommissioned and recovery tailings retreatment commenced; the coarse cyclone feed pump which processes DMS feed in the range +6mm to -20mm was upgraded from a “6/4” pump to the substantially larger “8/6” pump which has had a marked impact on the efficiency and reliability of the DMS module.

It is planned to similarly upgrade the fines cyclone feed pump, processing the +1 to -6mm material, in the next few weeks; and  the screening solution after the secondary scrubber which screens off and recycles oversized material to the existing tertiary crusher thereby further improving  the reliability of the DMS module, was installed and commissioned.

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

21st September 2020

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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