The multibillion-Pula uranium deposit project which could have started three years ago is still to take off due to the collapse of uranium market worldwide.
The uranium deposits discovered near Serule in the Central District is one of the large undeveloped deposits in the world with indicated reserves of 74.7 million pounds. Had everything gone according to A-Cap Resources (Pty) Ltd - which received a mining license to mine uranium in September 2016 - the company would have started production of 3.75 million pounds (Mlbs) of uranium with an anticipated 18 year Life of Mine (LOM) in 2018 with at least 402 employees.
Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Lefhoko Moagi told parliament this week that uranium deposits discovered in Botswana in the Serule area is one of the large undeveloped deposits in the world but not the biggest. He explained that the project did not take off due to the collapse of the uranium market given the over-supply of uranium at the time, which was further exacerbated by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station accident in Japan in 2011, resulting in most countries closing some of the older nuclear plants and cancelling new projects.
Moagi said in addition to depressed uranium prices, staged project optimisation work currently being undertaken by the Company affected the target timelines as set out in the Company’s mining license application. Moagi mentioned countries with biggest uranium deposits as Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada, China, South Africa, and Russia. The type of jobs created by uranium mining range from mining engineers, geologists, mineral processors, environmental and safety practitioners, various technical and artisan cadres, supporting functions like finance, human resource, IT among others.
All mining companies are regulated under the Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act. Moagi added that Uranium mining and processing requires stringent safety and security protocols due to possible adverse impact to human health when exposed to radiation. Uranium mining can be done by Surface or Underground mining processes and also by heap leaching.
In all methods, land can be left with radioactive, toxic elements and pollution of the soil and water and these associated adverse impacts require close monitoring. Uranium is mainly used to produce electricity. It provides thermal energy which is used to heat and convert it to steam which is then used to turn turbines to generate electricity.
A-Cap Resources’s proposed project is closer to the serviced rail line, a tarmac road as well as an established power line, and the nearby settlements of Serule and Gojwane are about 1.3km and 3.8 km respectively from the boundary of the lease area.
The Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) market arrangement is oligopolistic and still dominated by foreigners who rake in millions every year through imports, Lefhoko Moagi, Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security minister, has told Parliament.
Moagi said in response to a question posed by Shoshong Member of Parliament Aubrey Lesaso, that the local market currently has six (6) importers and ten (10) known distributors. Lesaso had asked the number of gas importers in Botswana; how many are indigenous Batswana Companies and how many are gas distributors or retail. Moagi said the retail space comprises of numerous small businesses that sell gas to consumers. Retailers range from those with cages of varying sizes to a small man in the street known as “bakkie boys”. The retail space is reserved for Batswana. Moagi named the importers as Afrox, Easigas, Tswana Gas, Air Liquide, Quick Gases and Simsa Gas.
He said according to information sourced from the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) website, only one company (Tswana Gas) has majority citizen shareholding at 57.4 percent and the other companies are foreign owned. Lesaso also wanted to know how much in volumes are these importers distributing, and how many of these distributors are indigenous Batswana and if the Minister does not see that as a monopoly. Despite the temporary closure of Quick Gases, the local gas market continues to operate efficiently, serviced by the other five importers. Moagi said they did experience some disruptions last year due to challenges in South Africa at the refineries but it was for a short time.
Therefore, there are generally no significant challenges experienced regarding the supply of LPG into the country. Moagi said all volumes imported into the country are filled into cylinders of varying sizes (9kg, 14kg, 19kg and 48kg) and distributed accordingly. The minister said information on shareholding of distributing companies sourced from the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) shows that Lobatse Gas Works is 70 percent citizens, Calvin Technology 100 percent, Salubrious 80 percent citizens. He said City Gas is 80 percent citizens, Seahorse Investments 100 percent foreign, BC&LM 100 percent foreign, Shanaz Gas 100 percent foreign, Viking Voyagers 100 percent foreign and Sefalana Tsabong Sefalana Holding Company Limited (100 percent), while Nari Gas information is not available on CIPA website.
Lesaso asked the minister to say what he is doing if the LPG market is found to be a monopoly; and how will he create an environment that will incorporate indigenous Batswana into the industry and further state the potential jobs the gas industry could create for Batswana in the value chain. Moagi said as the licensing Authority in the energy sector, Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) continues to ensure that Batswana are facilitated by way of granting licenses to operate businesses in the energy sector, including LPG.
He said that the licensing committee of BERA sits every Friday to consider license applications brought before the Authority. Furthermore, the minister said that Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) has been established as a government strategic entity to among other objectives ensure meaningful citizen participation in the petroleum sector, including LPG. Moagi assured parliament that his ministry through its strategic entities will ensure that Batswana companies are capacitated through awareness sessions on issues pertaining to running sustainable operations in the energy sector, including LPG. Lesaso had also asked the Minister to state the total volume of Low Pressure Gas (LPG) imported into the country every year and to categorise the volumes into domestic, commercial and industrial uses.
Quoting preliminary information collected by BERA for a market study that was commissioned by government, Moagi gave volumes of LPG imported into the country from 2010 to 2019 thus: He said in 2010 the volumes were 7, 929,400; 15, 893, 390 (2011), 16, 968, 147 (2012), 18,360, 119 (2013), 18,110, 695 (2014), 19,788, 244 (2015), 19, 749, 516 (2016), 20, 426, 337 (2017), 21, 805, 702 (2018) and 21, 712, 945 in 2019. Moagi said that information on disaggregated volumes according to domestic, commercial and industrial uses is currently not available. “This information will be sourced in future as more work is undertaken to assess performance of the sector,” Moagi said. The minister said the LPG market study will be ready by April 2021.
Among other things the study is looking into the market structure in terms of the value chain, market participants including company shareholding, pricing of LPG, investments into the sector, including ownership of assets, citizen participation, and safety and health issues pertinent to the sector. The LPG industry in Botswana has been unregulated over the years. However, Parliament passed the BERA Act in 2016 to regulate the provision of energy services including LPG in order to fully establish how the LPG industry has been functioning.