Selebi Phikwe — Selebi Phikwe will not become a ghost town but it will emerge to be one of the country's productive towns with a vibrant economy in the coming years.
This was said by President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama as he assured residents of the town during an event to bid him farewell at Selebi Phikwe as he noted that government was working round the clock to bring the economy up on its feet again.
He said more businesses will be setup in the town to resuscitate the economy of the area and create employment for locals.
"Government's deliberate decision to close down BCL Mine is painful but it had to be made. It was more logical and better to shut down the mine rather than lose billions of public funds trying to resuscitate it yet it did not make any returns due to the poor copper nickel market prices," he said
He explained that in 2014, government invested P2.3 billion with hope that the commodity prices of copper and nickel will go up and bring in income for the mine and country.
"However the commodity prices of the mineral resources went down resulting in the mine not making any profit and running at a loss," he said.
President Khama said the same happened in 2015 when government invested a further P2.5 billion on BCL and another P2.6 billion in 2016 noting that one could safely say funds that could have been used for developments and other infrastructural developments went down the drain.
He also brought to their attention that the equipment which was now too old to use had become risky to operate while in some instances it failed to operate thereby causing accidents which led to loss of lives.
"It was better to close the mine down rather than continue putting people's lives at risk and danger. It is better for a person to lose a job than life through accidents that occurred at the mine.
That person who has lost a job at BCL Mine is eligible to get another one in the long run," he said.
President Khama went on to state that the Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Mr Dithapelo Keorapetse had been calling on government to re-open the mine, however, in order to re-open again, the mine would need serious refurbishment which would cost government billions of Pula.
He explained that rather than divert funds to try and resuscitate the mine, something that did not work, it was more convenient to invest the funds in the various sectors of the economy and bring developments that would create employment.
President Khama elaborated that when BCL Mine closed down, the mine did not have funds to pay employees their last salaries.
He said due to that fact, Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe East, Mr Nonofo Molefhi, who is also Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, pleaded with Cabinet to consider paying employees their last salaries where P97 million was paid out to the former miners.
Further, President Khama said Minister Molefhi also pleaded with government to allow former BCL Mine miners to continue living in the mine's houses free of charge because they experienced financial challenges after losing their jobs, and in all that, government took heed to his request and currently former BCL miners are living in the houses with no rent until end of the year.
The President also mentioned that the MP for Selebi Phikwe also managed to convince Cabinet to pay school fees for children in schools in the former mining town where government agreed and spent P16 million on school fees.
Source : BOPA