After barely three years of operation, Boseto mine has been closed after being declared insolvent by its Board of Directors. The Discovery Metals Limited’s 100% owned copper mine has had a series of operational difficulties and battled debts since production commenced in the first half of 2012.
The financially troubled mine in its last quarterly report (Q2 FY15) experienced a mass decline by 13% of its copper production compared to Q1 FY15. The Copper Mine which lies in the north-west part of Botswana, about 90KM from Maun had an initial evaluated mine life of 15 years with an expansion plan that was to increase the life of the mine to 25 years.
On the fateful morning of Friday 27 the company was forced to shut down its operations, leaving about 422 miners unemployed. Reports are that this came after the company’s Managing Director and also Chief Executive Officer, Bob Fulker announced to the employees that its Group lenders in Australia submitted a letter of demand for an immediate payment of 103 million US dollars from the company and that they would not be accepting any further proposal from alternative potential investors.
With the help of Botswana Police Service and the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security workers, the employees were forced to evacuate the mining premises and raided into buses which transported them to Maun.
DML recently published a market release titled “Appointment of Administrators” dated 27 February 2015 which explains how the company came to be declared insolvent. In the statement the company announces that its Board of Directors has appointed Michael Ryan and Stefan Dopking of FTI Consulting as voluntary administrators of the company effective 27 February 2015, pursuant to section 436A of the Corporations Act of 2001.
According to the report, the administrators are working with the company’s management to fully understand the options available to the group, which may potentially include seeking expressions of interest to purchase the business and assets, a restructure or recapitalization of the group.
DML explained that the receipt of the Friday 27 2015 correspondence from its Lender Group who demanded from the company full and immediate repayment of all monies comprising principal repayments, interest and costs was only the beginning.
On the 9th February 2015, DML entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Castlepines Global Equities Limited (Castlepines). Under the terms of the MOU Castlepines proposed to invest US$110,000,000 into the DML’s wholly owned subsidiary Discovery Copper (Botswana) (Proprietary) Limited (DCB), which would provide Castlepines with a 34% interest in DCB with the company holding the remaining 66% interest in DCB.
According to the report part of the investment was intended to be utilized by the Company and DCB to pay-out the loan from Cupric Canyon Capital LP (Cupric) of US$5,000,000 pursuant to the Facility Agreement dated on 28 November 2014. Also to negotiate the settlement of the existing loan finance facility with the Company’s secured lending syndicate (based on the MOU) and sufficient capital to undertake the required underground development.
However, following provision of the MOU to the Company’s Lender Group DML received a Notice of Event of Default dated 10 February 2015 from the Lender Group advising that the execution of the MOU by the Company was a likely breach of the Amended and Restated Facility Agreement dated 13 July 2014. The Company then disputed the position taken by the Lender Group in this Notice of Event of Default.
The statement further indicated that as a result of the Notice of Event of Default dated 10 February 2015, Cupric also issued a “Notice of Default and Reservation of Rights.” The notice was claiming breach of the Facility Agreement between the DML and Cupric dated 13 February 2015. According to the report Cupric is provided with a right to issue a notice of default via the Priority Deed pursuant to the Cross Default provisions.
It is underscored that members of the DML Board and Executive Team then traveled to London to engage in discussions with the Company’s lending syndicate. The purposes of these discussions were to resolve any issue provided for under the disputed Notice of Event of Default dated 10 February 2015.
It was also meant to discuss the MOU with Castlepines and the actions required by the parties to proceed progressing with the transaction contemplated under the MOU and any other matter relevant to the Amended and Restated Facility Agreement dated 13 July 2014 which either party considered necessary to resolve.
Following these discussions and at the express request and encouragement of the Lenders, DML reports to have then formally wrote to the Lenders requesting written agreement of retracting the Notice of Event of Default dated 10 February 2015. It also demanded implementation of a Standstill Period of no less than six months pertaining to all obligations and requirements pursuant to the Amended and Restated Facility Agreement and whereby no enforcement action would be taken by the lending syndicate.
In addition it also requested for the lending syndicate to accept the proposal of Castlepines to settle all amounts owing by DML in accordance with the terms provided for in the MOU with Castlepines. Also to complete a Share Purchase Plan or Rights Issue allowing for interim funding to be raised to provide the Company with some working capital and to pay part or all of the Loan payable to Cupric pursuant to the Facility Agreement dated 28 November 2014.
In response DML is reported to have received a notice that the Lender Group will not provide the written agreement requested by the company. The statement reveals that DML remains in default of the Restated and Amended Facility Agreement with the lending syndicate dated 13 July 2014 and the Facility Agreement with Cupric dated 28 November 2014. It adds that the Company is unable to remedy these defaults.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.