'More mining jobs can be created’

Botswana, a mineral resources-based country has an opportunity to create more jobs within the mining sector, which is capital-intensive by nature, Bank of Botswana’s director for Research and Financial Stability, Dr. Tshokologo Kganetsano has told the press.

He made the observation when presenting a theme topic for the central bank’s annual report titled ‘Botswana’s trade patterns, international investment and regional economic-integration: Opportunities for industrial development and inclusive growth’ recently. 

Downstream beneficiation within the mineral sector is perhaps the major route for Botswana to take if it is to benefit from the multi-billion Pula sector, especially in the diamond sub- sector which contributes in majority to the country’s exports. 

“The relocation of the De Beers aggregation in 2012 and sales activities from the UK (United Kingdom) to Botswana and further development of polishing and manufacturing offer the potential for higher employment and greater positive spillovers,” said the report which was launched last week.  

According to a recent report from Statistics Botswana, the mining and quarrying industries employed 12, 447 workers up to March 2016. However, this was before thousands of jobs were shed after BCL ceased operations months after the report was published. 

More than three years ago, De Beers moved its aggregation and sales activities to Botswana following the signing of a ten year sales, sorting and valuation of Debswana-produced diamonds in 2011. The aggregation of diamonds to the 50-year old country was to have benefits to other sectors of the economy such as property, hospitality and financial services. 

However, the domestic economy is yet to fully benefit from such development, except for the coming in of diamond imports from De Beers diamond mines and the subsequent export of such parcel to outside markets.  Kganetsano, who is new in the post, pointed out that, ‘the success of the diamond polishing sector would depend on proper alignment on labour productivity and relative wages’. 

Recently, some diamond polishing and cutting companies have closed and retrenched workers citing ‘higher costs’ of production when compared to other players in developed markets such as India. The report, which is contained in the main 2016 BoB annual report, further states that Botswana has coal resources in abundance, but its potential to create industries and subsequently employment is yet to be fully exploited. 

“There is potential for coal to support economic activity (including employment opportunities) through direct export, use in generation of surplus electricity for export and production of gas, petroleum and associated chemicals,” said the report presented by Kganetsano. 

Botswana Oil, a government company, plans to create hundreds of jobs through its coal-to-liquids projects. The project is however at an infancy stage, Chief Executive, Willie Mokgatlhe has previously disclosed. 

The BoB report which suggests that Botswana can create more jobs especially in the downstream stage comes at a time when BCL is currently under provisional liquidation after it became apparent that it was no longer economically-viable to continue with its operations. 

Before mining was halted at the copper mine, the company’s executives were in the process of developing value-added production from copper under the much-hyped Polaris 2 strategy. 

As a result of BCL closure, more than 5000 workers have been ejected from the mining pits in Selebi Phikwe. 

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