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17 june 2019

excl_17062019_xx.pngSpeculative mineral exploration licences was a recurring theme from presentations made by three players in Botswana mining industry at a conference convened in Gaborone.

The country has issued thousands of exploration licences, across the mining industry, but the majority of them are said to be gathering dust.

Botswana is the second largest diamond producer in the world after Russia.

Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa, who attended the conference, has put together the comments made by Pangolin Diamonds chief executive Leon Daniels, Botswana Chamber of Mines chief executive Charles Siwawa and Botswana Minister of mineral resources, Green technology and energy security Eric Molale.

Below are the excerpts. 

Pangolin Diamonds chief executive Leon Daniels

Since January 2019, Pangolin has collected more than 500 soil samples per month, has conducted more geological surveys than 90% of other diamond exploration companies combined. The law does not provide for you to sell an exploration licence.

My impression is that many of these licence holders believe that they are millionaires the moment that blue document slides out of the brown envelope, ‘I am a millionaire’. Well if that is the case, I have 14 licences I should be a millionaire 14 times, so am asking you, why am I driving a 1997 [Toyota Corolla] Runx automatic second-hand Japanese car? Do you think I am a millionaire? It doesn’t work like that.

Your obligation when you have that licence is to put money in the ground. I presume you met the actual requirements, you showed that you have the financial resources and you showed that you have the technical ability in order to get that licence. So, my question is if you have shown that you have the financial resources and you have shown you have the technical ability, so why are you not doing the work?

So, the effect of you not doing the work… first of all is you sterilize potential good ground that somebody who wants to explore cannot explore and therefore you are precluding the discovery being made. Is that in the national interest?

You cry for employment because nobody, not even a person with a shovel picking up the sand is being employed. We have many jobless geologists and yet we have over 70 companies supposedly doing exploration and they can employ the entire class.

There are no discoveries because you are not exploring. You can’t find a kimberlite if you don’t have boots on the ground. I am one of the few people in this country that have experience. Looking at the future of kimberlite discoveries, you need experience. You cannot out of the blues know what to do. 

Botswana Chamber of Mines chief executive Charles Siwawa

We need to eliminate speculative exploration licences … to achieve more contribution from the mining space.

Having a mineral exploration licence is not in itself adding value whatsoever to the economy of the country.

I want to emphasize here that we need to take those exploration licences to mining licenses. Mining contribution to the GDP can return to 1990 level of 45% from the current 15-16%, if the exploration licences issued in the country were to be turned into mining licences.

The conversion of exploration licences to mining licences and focus on re-opening the mines on care and maintenance…should be able to see some growth in terms of contribution to the GDP.

If we put more revenue on the table, we can achieve more [for] our economy.

The industry should be self-regulating we don’t want a situation whereby the government starts introducing very punitive measures on people who are not doing what they should do with their exploration licences. 

Botswana Minister of mineral resources, Green technology and energy security Eric Molale

My ministry continues to give out mining exploration licences, but comparatively very little success is being recorded in terms of realizing positive results.

It would appear many licences fall into hands of speculators who have very little interest in ensuring that results are achieved.

I can only appeal to all of us to renounce from the industry such unwelcome tendencies and practices.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished, from Gaborone, Botswana