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Botswana diamonds exploration bears fruits

Botswana Diamonds PLC (BOD) has announced on Thursday that it has made progress on its exploration campaign which was first announced at the beginning of March. The ongoing diamond exploration campaign in Botswana is part of the 50/50 joint venture between Botswana Diamonds and Alrosa, the world's leading diamond producer.

In early March, BOD detailed its forthcoming first half 2016 exploration programme for Botswana which was to begin the same month. It was also announced that Russia based Alrosa will manage the whole expedition. The exploration programme entailed drilling of one core hole to 300m depth and one or two large diameter holes, each 300 metres deep on kimberlite pipe AK21 on PL 260 in the Orapa are as well as drilling two or three follow-up holes, 80 metres each on PL 210 in the Orapa area.

The exploration will then move to hard rock and heavy concentrate sampling on PLs 260 and 210 in Orapa and on the company’s four licences in the Gope area. Finally, the exploration team was to engage in ground magnetic surveys and electromagnetic (TEM) surveys on PLs 260 and 085 in Orapa; and PLs 135, 136 and 137 in Gope. The budget for the exploration was put at $700,000 of which half will be paid by BOD.

At the time of the announcement, John Teeling, chairman, commented "This is a very focused programme.  The wide diameter holes to be drilled on a known kimberlite on our new licence in Orapa, PL 260, are to test whether diamond grades improve at depth. The Gope area is emerging as an attractive diamond province with the Gem owned Ghaghoo mine and the Petra owned KX36 discovery.  We have already explored three small licences in the area and found anomalies.  The proposed work will identify drill targets."

In the recently released update, the Orapa exploration appears to be on track with sampling done in both sites where they hold prospecting licenses PL 260 and PL 210. At the PL 210, BOD announced that heavy concentrate sampling has taken place and the washing of the heavy concentrate samples has been completed and drilling to begin in May.

While the PL 260 area, they have engaged on diamond drilling on kimberlite pipe AK-21 of two boreholes to a total depth of 423 m. BOD says they are studying the core of the boreholes. Still on the same area, they undertook heavy concentrate sampling on detailed sites selected by the results of the airborne magnetic survey. This was followed by hard rock samples treatment and washing together with mineralogical analyses of the heavy concentrate and hard rock samples in the field laboratory. Now with the diamond drilling and heavy concentrate sampling having been completed, the company says reverse circulation drilling and sampling will continue into May.

At the Gope site, where the company holds four prospecting licenses, work is still underway. The ongoing work includes ground geophysical works and Transient Electro Magnetic soundings (TEM) on anomalies, heavy concentrate sampling on geophysical anomalies and washing of heavy concentrate samples together with mineralogical analyses of heavy concentrate samples in the field laboratory.

“The Alrosa-led team is applying state-of-the-art technology in an innovative way.  Mineralogical analyses of heavy concentrate samples in the field laboratory allows us to accelerate results so that our experts can focus the drill programme,” read part of the update.

In March when the company detailed its exploration programme for the first half of the year, its share price rose by 3 percent in the London Stock Exchange (LSE) where its primarily listed. The stock price was to later surge by 92% on the 6th of April to trade at £1.8 from £0.93 after the company announced that the drilling programme has started.

The latest announcement on the progress of the exploration programme was also met by a good rally at the LSE as the share price shot up by 18% during the day but by the end of the trading day, the stock only managed an appreciation of 11% from the opening price of £1.48 to close at £1.65.  In the Botswana Stock Exchange, where the company is listed under the foreign counter, the share price continued the trend as the news propelled the share price to jump by 35% from 14 thebe to 19 thebe, after 450 shares of the company were traded.

Botswana Diamonds plc is a diamond exploration and project development company. The Company holds exploration licenses in Botswana. The Company holds interests in approximately 30 licenses, of which over 10 are in a joint venture with Alrosa Overseas SA (Alrosa) and approximately three licenses are owned by the Company. It has over 10 licenses located in the Orapa Region and approximately 10 in the Central Kalahari (Gope) Region, near the Ghaghoo Diamond Mine. The Company also has rights over approximately 10 licenses in the Gope area of the Kalahari Desert.

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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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