The future of Tati Nickel mine (TNCM), which belongs to the trouble-prone BCL, is reportedly bleak as news of its imminent closure is already making rounds with fears that the mine could close for the next three months and employees forced to take unpaid leave.
Efforts to confirm from both the TNCM and BCL Public Relations Officers, Tebogo Rapitsenyane and James Molosankwe respectively drew blanks. Rapitsenyane could not pick his phone while Molosankwe referred this publication to the TNCM management for answers.
“BCL mine is a shareholder at Tati Nickel, but we cannot answer for the mine as it has its own managing structure,” said Molosankwe on Wednesday. The Minister responsible for minerals, Kitso Mokaila told this publication in a telephone interview that he could not comment since he was yet to brief his principals at a cabinet meeting this week.
Sources say the mine is broke and cannot meet its operational costs. “They have not been mining since January,” said a source. A source said the company has no source of income. “The only hope is for the government to bailout the mine,” said the source. However, the General Secretary of Botswana Mine Workers Union (BWMU), Mbiganyi Ramokate said that the union was in the dark about any closure although it would not surprise them.“They have a tendency of ambushing us with issues concerning employees. They once fabricated a story telling the Branch at Tati mine that they have consulted us about the retrenchments when they had not done so,” disclosed Ramokate.
He also revealed that some TNCM employees have been evacuated from Molapo Estates and contracts of about 96 employees have not been renewed. “Information reaching our office is that there has not been any mining activity since the year commenced,” Ramokate revealed. He also said if the allegations come to pass, about 705 employees who are still with the mine are bound to lose employment.
Botswana Guardian has been reliably informed that the management of the mine will meet with Cabinet today (Friday) to ask for financial assistance. At the commencement of this year, the mine was reportedly in serious debt, which resulted in one of its contractors (Moolman) pulling off their deal and in the process retrenching about 500 employees.
In April last year BCL mine spent P2.9 billion to buy all Norilsk Nickel African assets (three mines), which amongst them was TNCM, which had about 840 employees under its wing. According to media reports BCL’s aim to purchasing the mines was to drive its diversification and internationalization programme through its Polaris II Strategy.
This programme aims to position BCL’s smelter as a prime regional asset, with capacity and ability to treat nickel concentrates from regional producers. Polaris II is also geared to exploit the significant mining and operational skills it has built up over a 40 year period, by entering into partnerships on top tier assets in Southern Africa and consolidate a stable operating base to build a regional company in the mining and treatment of base metals.