Gaborone — Innovation in nickel batteries would be a breakthrough for the development of a Botswana-made electric car, says acting Permanent Secretary to the President, Mr Elias Magosi.
He told a Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI) seminar on the "Nickel Mining Industry" on Tuesday that the innovation would be a strategic development for cost-effective locally made cars.
Mr Magosi pointed out that nickel had long been widely used in batteries, most commonly in nickel-cadmium and in the longer-lasting nickel metal hydride rechargeable kind.
The major advantage of using nickel in batteries, he said, was that it helped deliver higher energy density and greater storage capacity at lower cost.
He said the batteries would be for the local market but targeted more for export in pursuit of the export-led economy.
Mr Magosi said BITRI, through its research areas of energy and Nano-materials, was engaged in research and development in the area.
He said the Nano-materials team was currently conducting research on value addition to nickel, especially on taking the metal from low grade ores to battery grades.
"The BITRI energy division focuses on the development and adoption of energy technologies for both renewable and non-renewable energies for Botswana, while the Nano-materials division focuses on research that adds value to Botswana's minerals," he said.
Mr Magosi said BITRI, as a science and technology institution, should play a leading role in supporting innovation in the country's energy and mining sector.
He said Botswana had put in place strategies for advancing development through optimisation of linkages in the mineral value chain, facilitation of economic diversification, job creation and industrialisation.
"It is our intention to expedite progress towards a knowledge based economy and contribute to an incremental GDP growth in mineral value addition, in line with our Vision 2036," he said.
He said the mineral beneficiation strategy provided a framework that seeks to translate the country's comparative advantage resulting from mineral resources endowment to a competitive one.
The country's mineral wealth and its value chain had a great potential to contribute to the competitiveness of the energy and minerals sector and ultimately economic transformation, he said.
Mr Magosi therefore said there was need for intensive research and development to ensure sustainability and capacity to store the energy Botswana was harvesting from various sources.
He however said currently the focus was on the nickel mining industry as a potential enabler for energy storage.
For his part, Dr Vaikuntam Lakshmanan of Canada's Process Research ORTECH, urged BITRI and government officials attending the seminar to come up with ways of utilising Botswana's abundant minerals.
He said the copper and nickel mines should be developed to use more advanced methods of mining which were cheaper.
Dr Lakshmanan advised Botswana against selling or exporting raw materials such as copper and nickel but to process them to extract the most wanted components and start factories for manufacturing batteries which were now in high demand the world over.
The result would be employment generation for citizens, he said adding that there was great opportunity for Botswana and Canada to work together and explore the use of their minerals.