The defunct BCL mine employed over 500 employees on both permanent and temporary basis after its closure in October 2016, for care and maintenance. But the party for some of them has come to an end as they too face imminent retrenchment. Eric Molale, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security told parliament that the BCL Liquidator has engaged a total of 477 permanent and 33 temporary workers at BCL.
He has also hired 34 permanent and two temporary workers at Tati Nickel Mine. MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Ditlhapelo Koorapetse asked Molale to state the number of workers employed by the BCL Liquidator for purposes of care and maintenance, what this care and maintenance entails and whether there is intention to reduce the number of these workers; and the number of foreign employees, their qualifications and positions.
Molale said the care and maintenance of the mine entails de-watering the mine shafts which requires pumping, ventilation, repairs of critical mining infrastructure and machinery required such as cages, pumping equipment, water treatment plants, the concentrator upkeep and surface area clean up. He said this was necessary as it is meant to maintain and prepare the assets for disposal. “My ministry has no intention to reduce the care and maintenance employment levels. In fact, I have asked the Liquidator to optimise employment levels to comply with the relevant legislation, in particular, as it relates to safety and health”.
The response prompted a supplementary question from Keorapetse. He said there is a memo or letter addressed to the care and maintenance staff that some of them will be retrenched. “Yes, I am aware of those letters. In the first instance, there are routine human resource processes when it relates to contractual matters. As I said in my answer, the halving or reduction or even stopping is not an option and that is what I made clear to the liquidator when I was in Selebi Phikwe last month,” said Molale. The minister said there is going to be a meeting next week between himself, the liquidator and the Registrar and Master of the High Court to try and resolve certain issues around the reporting channels that have to do with the liquidator doing his job and his reporting channels.
“There may be some conflicts as you are asking, but we are resolving them, because when there is a problem, we should not be part of the problem, we should be part of the solution,” said Molale. Keorapetse asked another supplementary question wanting to know whether the ministry has anybody to rely on in terms of information about what is going on at BCL during this process of liquidation, in terms of safe guarding the interest, especially of Batswana. He asked Molale if he has anybody with the requisite, necessary expertise to inform him about what is going on there besides the liquidator.
Molale answered in the affirmative stating that, “I do have the Minerals Development Company (MDC) that I rely on to give me the information”. He said that given the multi-sect oral nature of the liquidation, he has also set up a high level team to complement the work that is being done by the MDC in as far as “giving me up-to-date and correct information on a daily basis”.