Modern Mining: Featured News

A couple of months back I mentioned the upcoming Botswana Resource Sector Conference (BRSC), which I described as one of my favourites. Having now attended the conference, I thought I might share some of my impressions with readers.

Arthur Tassell commentFirst off, it was definitely the ‘quietist’ BRSC I’ve yet attended, with both the number of delegates and exhibitors down – or so it seemed to me – on previous events. I imagine this mainly reflects the depressed state of the mining sector in Botswana but it couldn’t have helped that the first day of the BRSC coincided with the second day of the Junior Indaba in Johannesburg.

I was also surprised to see that some companies whom one might have expected to participate in the event appeared to be absent. There were no presentations, for example, by Galane Gold, which has the Mupane gold mine near Francistown, or Cradle Arc, which is reviving the Mowana copper mine, north-east of Francistown.

Also missing from the line-up of companies was Debswana, by far the biggest player in Botswana’s mining industry, which one hears is well advanced with the planning of the proposed Cut 9 at Jwaneng and Cut 3 at Orapa, both very big projects indeed. Regrettably, no information on either was forthcoming at the conference, either from Debswana or
anyone else.

With Botswana having an estimated coal resource totalling 200 billion tonnes, it was no surprise that this commodity was strongly featured at the BRSC. Both Minergy, which is run by Andre Boje of Wescoal fame (see page 10), and Shumba Resources had a strong presence. Two absentees though (at least in terms of giving presentations) were Maatla Resources, which is developing the Mmamabula mine, and African Energy, which owns the Sese project south of Francistown.

It’s an interesting point as to which of the junior coal companies currently operating in Botswana will be first to market. Very likely this will be Minergy, which is expecting to produce its first coal later this year from its Masama project.

On the diamond side, all the junior explorers active in Botswana were present at the BRSC. This is not to say much, as there are currently only three of them, namely Botswana Diamonds, Pangolin Diamonds and Tsodilo Resources – whereas ten years ago there would probably have been three or four times this number. They were represented, respectively by James Campbell (see page 22), Dr Leon Daniels, and Dr Mike de Wit, all of them with huge reputations in the diamond exploration field.

Leon, incidentally, gave a presentation entitled ‘Contrasting termite transported indicator mineral concentrations in the Kgalagadi of Central District Botswana: Macrotermes michaelseni vs Hodotermes mossambicus’, co-authored by Tshireletso Dira. One might think that a talk of this nature would be highly academic and somewhat dry but it was, in fact, very entertaining and went down well with conference delegates.

As he has in previous years, Charles Siwawa, the well-respected CEO of the Botswana Chamber of Mines, gave an update on the country’s mining industry. His address was largely positive but he did acknowledge that a spate of mine closures had resulted in around 10 000 workers losing their jobs. As he pointed out, this is a large number for a country with a population of only 2 million.

Saving the best for last, two of the most encouraging presentations were given by copper/silver aspirants, Khoemacau Copper Mining (a subsidiary of US-based Cupric Canyon) and Australia’s MOD Resources, both with projects in the Kalahari Copperbelt.

Khoemacau’s Johannes Tsimako, who is Country Manager, put a date to the start of construction on the company’s much anticipated Zone 5 underground mine (see page 8) while MOD’s MD, Julian Hanna, and his colleague Kebalemogile Tau, Exploration Manager at Tshukudu Metals (MOD’s Botswanan subsidiary), updated delegates on MOD’s exploration efforts and its flagship Motheo (T3) project, on which a development decision is expected next year.

The two projects between them should result in an investment in Botswana’s mining sector of well over half a billion US dollars and result in an annual copper production from the Kalahari Copperbelt of at least 80 000 tonnes within several years (with plenty of potential for this to grow).

Overall, I enjoyed the BRSC and will be reporting on some aspects of it in our next issue. The main takeaway was that there are some very positive developments on the immediate horizon in respect of coal and copper/silver and that Botswana – as a result – can finally look forward to some new investment in its beleaguered resources sector.

Arthur Tassell

Contact Modern Mining

Title: Editor
Name: Arthur Tassell
Email: mining@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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Name: Bennie Venter
Email: benniev@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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