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Mining productionrebounds to pre-Covid-19 levels

The local mining industry is on the rise again, emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic induced headwinds.

In 2020 mining operations had to curtail their production in response to plummeting demand across commodity markets. Companies also had to reduce their workforce to comply with COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious plague.

This resulted in low production levels across the sector, however operations are significantly jumping back to pre-COVID-19 output levels albeit another variant that has now surfaced, posing uncertainty for the year 2022.

Just before close of business for the year 2021, Statistics Botswana released the Index of Mining Production, a quarterly measure of output across Botswanas mining operations and extractive industries.

The Index of Mining Production stood at 95.5 during the third quarter of 2021, showing a year-on-year growth of 31.8 percent, from 72.5 registered during the third quarter of 2020.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows an increase of 11.6 percent from the index of 85.6 during the second quarter of 2021 to 95.5 observed during the period under review.

The main contributor to the increase inmining production came from the Diamonds, which contributed 31.2 percentage points.

Gold was the only negative contributor to mining production, at negative 0.4 of a percentage point.

Diamond production increased by 32.2 percent (1.584 million carats) from 4.916 million carats during the third quarter of 2020 to 6.5 million carats during the same quarter of the current year.

The increase was a result of planned strategy to align production with stronger trading conditions.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production registered an increase of 11.6 percent (673 000 carats) during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the 5.8 million thousand carats during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s flagship diamond producer is De Beers – Government jointly owned Debswana, by far the country’ s mining jewel and global leader in rough diamond production.

The other diamond producing operation is Lucara’s 100 % owned Karowe Mine, a relatively small operation but known around the globe for its spectacular diamond recoveries, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Gold production decreased by 26.9 percent (65 kilograms) during the third quarter of 2021, from 241kilograms during the same quarter of the previous year to 176 kilograms currently

The quarter-on- quarter analysis reflects a decrease of 5.5 percent (10 kilograms) to 176 kilograms during the third quarter of 2021, compared to 186 kilograms in the preceding quarter.

Botswana’s sole gold producer is Galane Gold’s Mupane Minein North East Botswana, enclaved around the historic gold fields of Francistown.

The decrease in production according to Statistics Botswana was a result of thedeteriorating lifespan of the mine. Mupane Gold Mine is currently on a rough run with imminent workers strike over unsatisfactory payments. The impending protests have been heavily endorsed by Botswana Mine Workers Union.

In Sua Pan, the sodium crystals have risen to glory, making Sowa Town great again, Soda Ash production rose by 81.7 percent (29, 312 tonnes) from 35, 883 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020 to 65, 195 tonnes in the same quarter of the current year.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows thatproduction went up by 12.5 percent (7, 233 tonnes) during the period under review, from 57, 962 tonnes during the previous quarter.

The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.

Salt production went up by 86.1 percent (78, 566 tonnes) to 169, 826 tonnes during the third quarter of 2021, from 91, 261 tonnes during the same quarter of the previous year.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarteranalysis shows that salt production registered an increase of 66.9 percent (68, 050 tonnes) compared to 101, 776 tonnes during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s industrial scale Salt an Soda Soda Ash producer is Botswana Ash (Botash), a 50-50 partnership between Botswana Government and South African Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group.

Coal production increased by 1.0 percent (5, 434 tonnes), from 543, 793 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020, to 549, 227 tonnes in the current quarter.

The slight increase came as a result of the efforts made to meet both domestic and international high demand, particularly that new markets have been identified.

The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production went up by 13.1 percent (63, 585 tonnes) compared to 485, 642 tonnes during the second quarter of the current year.

Inthe coal space the only operating mines are the privately developed Minergy’s Masama located near Media Village and the wholly Gorvenment owned Morupule Coal Mine.

Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte recorded zero production during the period under review. The affected mines are still under provisional liquidation.

Copper in Concentrates and Silver though there has been exportation of Copper by the newly launched Khoemacau Copper Mine since July 2021, the mine has been engaged in preparatory mining activities in readiness for full operations intended for the year 2022.

The preparatory mining operations yieldedrewarding outcomes as copper residues realized have been exported since July 2021.

The period between preparatory and full operations is intended to allow the production to stabilize before reporting production output figures.

Business

Grit divests from Letlole La Rona

22nd March 2023

Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.

The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.

Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.

This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.

In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.

Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.

The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.

“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said

In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.

The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.

Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.

Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.

Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.

Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.

“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.

LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.

The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.

An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.

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Business

Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW

20th March 2023

Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.

The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.

“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.

In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices.  Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.

“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.

Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy,  Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.

“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.

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Business

Food import bill slightly declines

20th March 2023

The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.

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