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Base metals, solar power take centre state

Publishing Date : 18 June, 2019

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Botswana will remain a mining country, alongside efforts to address over dependence on mineral revenue, the country is also moving steadily to diversify within the mining industry itself.


This position emerged at the recent Botswana Resources Sector Conference organized by Capital Conferences in Gaborone this week. The event gathered investors, experts and leading personalities and entrepreneurs from Banking, Mining, Assert & Fund Managers, and other financial institutions.


Delivering the keynote address Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security - Eric Molale said in addition to Botswana’s economic transformation strategies for revenue diversification the intention is to derive value and economic growth from beneficiation of base metals and refocusing exploration of solar power and storage battery minerals such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, and rare earth minerals.


“These minerals puts Botswana in a lucrative and better position of taking  advantage of the emerging electric vehicles and other renewable technologies utilizing battery storage” he said Molale said Government commitment to developing base metals mining sector has been evident from various facilitation projects such as the 1.4 billion pula North West Power Grid undertaken to resources various copper & nickel mining projects along the Kalahari Copper belt in Ghanzi and Ngamiland districts.


He further cited the Mmamabula –Lephalele railway project which intends to unlock regional market for Botswana’s coal by providing a logistic corridor. Minister Molale went on to note that Government has earmarked broader beneficiation in the mining sector as one of its key area of action to drive job creation and to unlock other value chain business opportunities. “Our particular attention will be on diamonds, we will be opening up to vibrant polishing and cutting industries as well as jewelry making,” he said.


He shared that the failure of the national economic growth to reach the vision 2016 target of the 7.5% was mainly due to the low performance of the mining sector as a result of global uncertainties faced during NDP 10 period. “We are now midway through NDP 11 and lessons learned during the NDP 10 period must have made us wiser in navigating the challenges associated with this industry, the average rate of growth target for Vision 2036 is set at six percent.


This time we must not miss the mark. All eyes will be on the mineral resources sector to play a leading role in assisting the country to achieve the Vision 2036,” he said. Speaking on behalf of Debswana, the event’s main sponsor and key component of Botswana‘s mining industry Lead Engineer, Puso Mooketsi said that it was  befitting for Debswana to sponsor this collaborative conference as the company believes that it is one of the forums where the future is carved.


"The nation will also require baton carriers by the time Debswana resources get exhausted, so in the best interest of the future of this country as a company that has led its economic transformation we want to take part in development on other industries within the mining sector," he said. Also key to the conversation at the conference were the national power concern which has been underscored as an impediment to development of manufacturing and processing industries which requires high voltage factories to run.


The two industries are also earmarked for creation of much needed jobs especially for young people who are currently unemployed in large numbers. Attendants at the conference highlighted that with its high number of clear days in a year, Botswana provides an excellent solar resource, noting that a logical conclusion is that solar could provide a meaningful contribution to Botswana's energy demands.


The increasing cost and unreliability of power from Eskom in South Africa provided the impetus for the Botswana government to research renewable energy, with the most obvious contender being solar. In early 2017, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) decided to start a programme to procure 100MW of solar energy and exploit the plentiful natural resource. Wayne Kingwill, Managing Director of Vivo Energy said solar power solutions have also become far more affordable and commercially viable over the past few years. “Many issues that plagued solar have also been resolved.


The introduction of hybrid systems using more sophisticated battery technology and diesel generation to store energy and boost production at peak times has resolved a constraint that solar power could only be generated during the day” he said
The Vivo Energy Boss shared that his company is currently taking up interest in development of solar energy as an alternative source of power.


"We have donated so far over 2000 solar lamps to students in communities that are off the national electricity grid line to give them an opportunity to study after hours. We have since discovered that the pass rate in those areas went up,” said Wayne Kingwill explaining how his company also leverage on Solar Energy to empower local communities and shape the future of young.

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