The highly anticipated reopening of BCL mine will not happen anytime soon. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Mr Mmetla Masire says it is still way too early to imagine or even think about return of operation at the once regional copper and nickel mining giant.
In September of this year, Lefoko Moagi – Minister of Mineral Resources told Parliament that government had identified three (3) potential investors who are interested in bringing the BCL mine back to life. The process of choosing new owners, Moagi said, was expected to be completed by December 2020.
Speaking to Weekendpost on Monday, Permanent Secretary Masire said the BCL Liquidator has reported to the Ministry that they are still evaluating bids/proposals from a number of interested potential investors. “At this stage they have not yet concluded the evaluation therefore we do not know how well they are progressing,” he said.
Masire explained that the process will take some time as it is the nature with companies under liquidation. “The Liquidator reports to the Master of the High Court and they will update us on their finds and decisions when they are ready,” said Masire.
Quizzed on whether or not Government would be interested in buying a stake, or partnering with any of the investors Mmetla Masire said that conversation was not applicable at the moment. “It is premature to talk about Government partnering with any of the bidders when we are not even sure if any of the bidders will be successful,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary reiterated that it would therefore be unrealistic to expect BCL mine to be back in operation any time soon. “It is premature to be talking about reopening all or parts of BCL, the process of arriving at that stage is a very complex one and it takes time,” Masire said.
BCL Group which comprises of Phikwe BCL Mine and Tati Nickel mine in Francistown was put under provisional liquidation in October 2016, a decision which according to Government, stemmed from decline of copper prices on global markets thus rendering BCL an uneconomic business case.
Prior to BCL liquidation Government had already pumped over P1 billion in cash through a loan that was later transformed into equity giving government full ownership following a series of transactions aimed at buying out Russian Norilsk. The closure of BCL mine in Phikwe resulted in over 5000 job losses, majority of which were semi and non-skilled personnel from Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas.
THE RACE TO TAKE OVER BCL
Information gathered by Weekendpost revealed that while government had announced that three (3) potential investors are bidding for the takeover of BCL mine, the quest has narrowed to a two (2) horse race. Two Former BCL Executives are said to be leading two (2) set of investors in a pursuit to assume the reins of resurrecting BCL.
Montwedi Mphathi, former General Manager of BCL has partnered with a team of Canadian Investors to bid for the Mine. Mphathi, a shrewd miner, is credited for leading BCL to profitability during his time before leaving under a cloud to head Botash, Botswana‘s sole soda ash producer. Sources close to the matter told this publication that Mphati and his partners are likely to emerge as the preferred bidders.
He is said to be banking on his credentials as the first Motswana to head BCL, leading it to profitability, and a combination of his Canadian partners’ financial capacity and knowledge of the market. “Mphathi actually knows BCL better , he has worked there for over 30 as a junior until General Manager , if his Canadian partners have the money and guaranteed market access , they stand a better chance,” said one industry expert who preferred anonymity.
The seasoned mining industry giant who also worked in the highest level of Government told this publication that BCL‘s business case remains viable. “The Phikwe mine would obviously not be back to pre liquidation capacity; at most it’s likely to hire about 1500 people,” he said.
The other set of investors are led by Mark Williams. The former Divisional Manager – Corporate Strategy at BCL Mine is said to have convinced well resourced Qataris investors’ to also enter the race. Mark William is often referred to as the master mind behind BCL Polaris II, an ambitious strategy that was coiled to diversify BCL‘s portfolio and secure the company‘s future beyond its own mineral resource.
Polaris II which entailed multibillion pula purchase of Nkomati Mine in South Africa was later criticized as one of the ill advised moves that sunk BCL into financial dark hole. Efforts to get hold of BCL liquidator who is based in Cape Town, South Africa were not fruitful as had not responded to Weekendpost questionnaire at press time. His Phikwe based staff declined commenting on the matter.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.