Botswana: BCL Mine Partial Opening Possible

Selebi Phikwe — Government is working round-the -clock to lure investors to reopen parts of BCL mine, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.

Addressing a kgotla meeting in Selebi Phikwe yesterday, the President said the issue was always part of his mission when he visited other countries.

President Masisi said much as the situation in Selebi Phikwe pained government, reopening the mine in its entirety was not possible.

Government, he said, had done everything in its power to see if the possibility of reopening existed but after all the assessments, it was clear it would not be possible.

Prior to its closure in 2016, the mine, which employed about 4 500, experienced many accidents which resulted in loss of lives.

President Masisi said it was estimated that P6.5 billion would be needed to rehabilitate the mine..

He explained that BCL mine initially had private investors who later pulled out when performance declined leaving it in the hands of government.

Dr Masisi said for years government tried to keep the mine running to save jobs and breathe life into the Selebi Phikwe economy but the situation worsened leading to the final decision to close it down.

The mine had been put under liquidation, a process also solely funded by government, he said.

President Masisi said employees were to be paid first once the liquidator managed to sell any BCL assets.

However, government bore in mind that the liquidation process was very long and did its best to solicit funds to pay the former employees, he said.

The President said former employees were paid over P224 million to pave way for the liquidation process noting that P1.2 million was yet to be paid to 1 000 more workers.

To cushion the former employees, he said government paid school fees for their children who were enrolled at private schools for a year and also paid rentals for those who had not vacated BCL houses.

Dr Masisi said the Selebi Phikwe Economic Revitalisation Strategy, which had so far created 1 600 jobs, was now the town's hope.

In addition he said government had introduced incentives to attract investors to the town which included a favourable five per cent tax for the first five years of operation and 10 per cent for subsequent years.

Other incentives are a 30 per cent Direct Government Take-Off where first preference of government's procurement will be given to SPEDU region provided quality, quantity and price requirements are met.

For his part, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Mr Eric Molale disputed allegations that former employees were promised 18 months salary after the mine closure.

Mr Molale said records only showed the indicated terminal and severance benefits.

Regarding the earth tremors occurring in Selebi Phikwe, he said government had engaged Geo-science Institute to carry out intensive research on the tremors with the final report expected end of August.

However, he said the liquidator, who at the time did not want to listen to government's advise, failed to pump out water from the mine resulting in the tremors.

Earlier, Kgosi John Seabe of Botshabelo Ward complained that the closure of the mine left Selebi Phikwe residents in poverty as many people lost their jobs.

He said some investors closed down their businesses and left town, while others retrenched.

Kgosi Seabe said many who lost their jobs vacated the houses they had rented thereby impoverishing the landlords.

Source : BOPA

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