GABORONE, Botswana (miningweekly.com) – The government of Botswana is bringing relief to profit-squeezed mining companies in the country by allowing them to defer the payment of mineral royalties.
Speaking at the thirteenth Botswana Resource Sector conference here, Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Minister Onkokame Kitso Mokaila said the government was applying this short-term relief and would continue to assist the mining industry on a case-by-case basis for mutual benefit.
“What keeps me awake at night is how we enable business to earn a return on their investment and at the same time have national benefit,” Mokaila told the conference, attended by Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online.
Emphasised at the conference was the importance of working collaboratively.
The Minister made himself available for prolonged questioning from the floor and said his country was going all out to overcome its energy and water challenges by addressing immediate short-term issues while also working on the long-term goal of achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2019.
In the immediate term, Morapule B power station’s 600 MW power plant boilers were undergoing repair after which all four of the power station’s units would be functional.
“This will be followed by major repair over the next two years to ensure reliability,” he said, adding that a full 30-year life of power plant was being targeted.
State power utility Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) was also increasing the capacity of the diesel peaking plant, which is scheduled to increase to 195 MW by the end of July. Additionally, it was refurbishing three 33 MW units of the Morapule A power station for completion by 2016, and the fourth unit by 2017.
An option to increase the size of Morapule A was also being kept open.
The Minister said that expressions of interest had been invited to secure gas for the open cycle gas turbine plant at Orapa and 100 MW of solar power for the country’s north-west region.
“We were slow on renewable energy because it came at a price but now that it is priced more reasonably, we’re going ahead,” said Mokaila during question time, when he also revealed that independent power producer (IPP) involvement from the private sector was being proposed for the Morapule extensions and that the government had also decided to cap BPC’s total contribution at 1 200 MW, leaving scope for IPPs thereafter.
In order to meet increasing water demand, pipelines and well fields were being developed and detailed designs prepared for the north-south carrier.
Given the current water shortages, pipelines had been put on fast-track to deliver water sooner than planned.
The water allocation support team was being integrated to maximise benefits in the national interest and water use in mining was having to be accounted for with mining urged to introduce technologies to cut water usage.
The water balances have to be fully accounted for as part of the water allocation framework.
The Ministry had a team working on a draft minerals document, which would be completed in the second quarter to be followed by public consultations.
The draft mines amendment act bill, initiated in 2013, would take into account the mining of emerging minerals such as coalbed methane and introduce measures to deter illegal mining.
The diamond cutting and semi precious stones legislation had also been submitted for public review.