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Botswana Chamber of Mines. Protecting the wealth of the land.

Established to serve the interests of the mining and exploration companies, the Botswana Chamber of Mines remains one of the main drivers of economic activity in the country. With more exploration for minerals than ever before it is essential that the activities of the companies and the progress found is achieved smoothly and with due regard to legislation put in place to protect people and land.

Stone quarry work

With this in mind, the Botswana Chamber of Mines aims to ensure that legislation in the country is conducive for mining companies and at the same time develops good working relationships with the legislator.

According to Charles Siwawa, CEO, The Botswana Chamber of Mines serves the interests of the mining industry in the country and furthermore as the CEO it is up to him to engage and liaise with the government, non-government organisations and other stakeholders to ensure that the needs of the industry are catered for properly.

“As the face of Botswana’s mining one of the Chamber’s aims is to ensure that Botswana’s regulatory environment supports the mining sector,” he says, “And amendments to some of Botswana’s legislation have already been made thanks to the Chamber’s efforts.”

A LONG HISTORY

Mining activities have been taking place in Botswana since the nineteenth century with the advent of the gold rush in the northern part of the country. Notable mining activities included the gold mines in Francistown, copper mines at Matsitama, manganese mines at Kgwakgwe hills in Kanye and asbestos mines at Moshaneng.

Not much is known about this industry as far as operations or how the exploration and mining companies built/kept relationships with their workforce during this time but in 1990, on the back of the growing industry, the mining houses felt the need to discuss the issues under a single forum and that heralded the birth of BCM.

It is a mining employer’s organization serving its members to promote their interests in the Botswana mining industry with consultations between the members on matters of common concern. There has been significant progress over the years in terms of achievements by this organization.

The companies of the BCM include those explorers and exploiters of the various mineral to be found in Botswana and other stakeholders include the government, mining suppliers, contractors and tertiary training institutions. In total there are 30 members of different levels of participation.

HOLDING BOTSWANA’S POTENTIAL IN THEIR HANDS

As Botswana’s Chamber of Mines represents the country’s high-potential mining industry, Siwawa is adamant that they must conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, keeping the country’s best interests in mind at all time, “We commit to the a number of values which govern the way we operate and relate with our internal as well as external stakeholders,” he says.

Unity – We will actively promote our shared purpose and commitments, speaking with one voice, and acting as one     team to honour and deliver the Chamber’s business.

Good governance – Our operations and ways of working will be characterised by compliance to good practices and     ethical standards. We will be transparent and honest in our dealings.

Meritocracy – We promote and recognise excellence in our dealings within as well as outside the Chamber.

Good corporate citizenship – Our business operations will benefit our communities through well managed     corporate social responsibility programmes.

 Safety – We commit to conduct our business without harm to our people and the environment.

These values are important when considering the bounty that Botswana possesses.  It is a land rich in diamonds, coal, copper and coal bed methane with additional resources such as iron ore, uranium and silver.

“Coal has a particularly strong potential for growth,” he indicates, “Companies can export it raw, use it for power generation or convert it to a liquid as a petroleum product,”

According to him, the SADC region needs to develop efficient power-distribution systems and this is something that Botswana’s coal can play a role in and this position is supported by the government of Botswana as well. Another segment that promises growth is copper refining and there are studies currently ongoing to determine the full potential of undertaking this project of further beneficiation of base metals.

“The Chamber of Mines strongly supports foreign investment in Botswana’s mining industry and wants to position Botswana as a mining hub,” he says.

KEEPING HOLD OF IT ALL

As has long been the case for African nations, foreign investment comes into the country and funds the removal of the most valuable resources. These resources make these investors rich while plunging the host country into debt as the money is made overseas. Then when the land has been completely sucked of it’s worth by foreigners, it is left to the locals to try and pick up the pieces and fill the holes left behind.

This is why, to join the BCM there are a few fundamental pointers that have been established to stop this from happening.

Siwawa explains that a company must have the relevant paperwork in the form of a mineral-exploration license and/or a mining license or be a contractor for such a company. With 30 members under its umbrella, the Chamber also demands that mining companies applying for a mining license must have a plan for rehabilitating the land once the project is finished.

“Each mining company is required to create funds that will be used for this rehabilitation once mining operations have ceased,” he says.

Botswana remains one of Africa’s most desirable locations for FDI in mining, and while foreign investment is encouraged to take advantage of the many opportunities available in the country they have to be sure about who is benefitting the most with regards to the mineral wealth of their nation. Certain questions like, ‘Are the workers local and are local people receiving training and expertise to do so?’ and ‘Do the mines operate sustainably or is their operation likely to ruin the land completely?’ have to be asked and it is the BCM’s role to do this.

“This sort of position is important as it means that investors can be confident that their involvement in Botswana will be safe and productive over the long term,” Siwawa concludes.