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Botswana minerals policy goes green

Botswana minerals policy goes green

The mining sector is the mainstay of the economy of Botswana. Botswana is often argued to be a model success story for the African continent due to its natural resource governance and long-term, sustainable growth, however, Botswana is underperforming due to government policy incoherence.

The 2022 Botswana Minerals Policy presented by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Lefoko Moagi in Parliament finally addressed the critical questions on the mineral policy and how mining sustainability can be achieved.

“The Government is committed to the development of the country’s mineral deposits, evident by the introduction of the minerals policy,” said Moagi. He highlighted that the policy provides, in a compact and easily accessible manner, strategic direction on management and development of the country’s finite mineral resources.

He says the policy was developed taking into account the emerging issues such as beneficiation and value addition, citizen economic empowerment and local participation and the use of technology to produce man made mineral products.

The policy objectives are that; it is intended to maximise national benefits from minerals development while providing a competitive environment for investors. The Government is to ensure adherence to the environmental and other related policies for sustainability in accordance with the best international practices.

The six chapter document continues that the Minerals Policy provides a framework for minerals development in light of challenges such as the dependency of Botswana’s economy on minerals, more especially diamonds.

Another challenge is the increasing competition for investors with other countries as more and more mining jurisdictions improve their policies and mineral potential; the need for maximization and equitable distribution of benefits such as revenues, employment generation, and local supply of goods and services and the heightened consumer sensitivity to the issues of climate change, the environment and ethics.

The policy maintains among others the principle of ensuring protection of the environment and public safety. It reads; “Mining operations can have significant negative impacts on the environment and public safety unless appropriate avoidance or mitigation measures are taken. The Government will establish and enforce safeguards that are consistent with responsible mining, taking into account the interests of stakeholders in accordance with internationally accepted best practices.”

Very little research has been carried out on the environmental impacts of mining in the country. The few studies available mainly concentrate on the economic benefits. Greenhouse gas emissions at mining operations currently account for about 10% of global emissions.

The policy statement on the matter of the environment is that “the government will promote adherence to best industry practice on environmental issues in the minerals development process to protect the environment and ensure sustainable use of the resources.”

The objective of the policy statement is to ensure environmental, economic and social considerations are integrated effectively in decisions on mineral issues and the implementation of the policy.

Moagi highlighted that to achieve the objective, the government will ensure adherence to the polluter pays principle. Mining operations will also be undertaken in accordance with the approved Environmental Management System consistent with the best international industry standards.

Operators will undertake rehabilitation and mitigation of environmental damage arising from their operations as well as application of responsible mine closure, decommissioning and rehabilitation plans.

When debating the policy Nata/Gweta Member of Parliament Polson Majaga said the Minerals Policy was overdue, indicating that it was time Botswana maximised benefits from the mineral sector because the country is rich in mineral resources.

Bobonong MP Taolo Lucas advised that going forward, it should be ensured that the country benefits more in terms of financial shares from mining partnerships because the minerals are from Botswana. Adding that there should be a law that enforcing mines to give government or citizen-owned companies at least 25 per cent stake in all mines in Botswana. This arising from minerals resources from Botswana benefiting foreign investors more than the locals and government, citing the 50/50 stake agreement between DeBeers government saying the financial gains favour DeBeers than the government.

The Botswana Mineral Accounts Technical Report of 2018-2019 by the Botswana Geoscience Institute policy messages for the government of Botswana drawn from the report were that; ‘the legislation or mineral policy should ensure that sustainable mining is core since environmental and climate change issues were on the rise.’

The report advised that Botswana needs to explore diversification in two-fold: being diversification in Mining: “Growth of the industrial minerals have proved to add significant value to the mining revenue basket. Diversifying mining from diamonds will not only add value but will cushion and promote mining sustainability as well as cushion the nation from global external shocks.

Second, Research to promote a forward backward linkage among different sectors to identify sectors that can stimulate economic performance are needed, especially with many strategies implemented by the government yet observing a slow pace of economic transformation.

The report added that research needs to be done to assess the future for diamond mining in Botswana and the Botswana mining tax policy needs to accommodate downstream beneficiation to urge companies not to export raw materials.

Botswana produces diamonds, coal, soda ash, copper, nickel, silver, gold, industrial minerals and semi-precious stones. Other known deposits are uranium, iron ore, coal -bed-methane and platinum group metals (PGM).There are also known occurrences of other industrial minerals in Botswana such as talc, slate, and phosphate.

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