Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse says government should reconsider the offer of South African mining tycoon Patrice Motsepe to buy the BCL smelter.
Keorapetse who was debating budget proposals for the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security in Parliament said the reasons for closing BCL are unacceptable as stated before. According to the legislator it also doesn’t make any sense to remove the smelter as suggested by Minister Advocate Sadique Kebonang a few weeks ago in Parliament because this will end any hope for the town of Selibe-Phikwe.
“There was an interest from Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals in October 2016 for the smelter, but was not accepted as they wanted him to take over the entire mine, so as to open up some shafts in order to employ more workers. The smelter alone can employ around 600 workers.
“Government has reached an agreement with Norilsk Nickel, and will be paying once off penalty of approximately US$45 million for the failed Nkomati deal. This means that this Norilsk Nickel liability is taken care of, which removes the cloud over BCL therefore it can be marketed so as to find a buyer who can open the mine and run it. The government can look at Patrice Motsepe, Glencore, Chinese mining companies, or other investors. It would thus be very reckless to sell off the smelter, and take away any hope for Selibe-Phikwe,” Keorapetse added.
He revealed that few weeks ago the liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren admitted at a SPEDU meeting at Syringa Lodge in Selibe-Phikwe that there is at least 15-20 years’ worth of ore deposits, and that they will be undertaking companies to drill, so as to determine the ore body sizes, as well as the grade of the material. He pointed out that if there is talk of Tati Nickel being sold in the next few months, then it makes the BCL smelter even more important, for the smelting of material from Tati Nickel as well as from other mines.
He wondered why trucks drive through Botswana from Zambia and the DRC carrying copper material, and Botswana is not being able to mine this ore. BCL mine should never have been closed down in the first place according to the MP. “Our view is that the government must prioritise the reopening of the BCL mine and should abandon its plans of selling the smelter as scrap. Selibe-Phikwe can still be the region’s metallurgical hub, as envisaged by Polaris II strategy.”