With the Kalahari copperbelt being underexplored and the advancement of better processing and higher-resolution data collection tools, numerous explorers are increasingly collecting data in Botswana to use for new exploration and increase current exploration in the region.
The Kalahari copperbelt stretches from central Namibia to northern Botswana, from the Lake Ngami district, 800 km along the south-eastern margins of the Damaran Katangan rift basin in central Namibia, and into northern Botswana towards the Shinamba hills.
“I think the more there is an increase in investment – subject, of course, to those companies obtaining appropriate environmental licences – the more it is critical to find significantly more copper in the copperbelt that can be extracted economically and will have benefits in terms of job creation and revenue for the Botswana government,” says Aim-listed investing company Metal Tiger CEO Michael McNeilly.
He adds that local and international companies are collaborating in the copper sector in Botswana, with local companies being primarily financed by international investors. This includes debt funding, as well as financing from what is known as a ‘silver streamer’, where the equity comes from private equity.
The challenges that investors and companies in exploration face include unforeseen changes in regulations, delays in terms of the issuing of environment permits and the transition into a more formal environmental process, as well as confusion in terms of the implications of environmental law.
However, in Botswana, “it appears that the process is much more streamlined and there’s an appreciation that drilling represents an environmental impact, taking into consideration tourist-focused areas and areas where wildlife can be affected”, he says.
McNeilly says the Botswana government has been selective in granting companies permission to explore – if they are “doing good work”, government will be flexible in terms of enabling them to continue spending money for mining licences. Government is favourably inclined towards mining companies that honour their outlined goals and objectives, he adds.
“Interest in spending money on exploration in Botswana has improved, owing to its being one of the last remaining district-scale copperbelt opportunities that has had little exploration . . .”
While McNeilly attributes the little exploration in Botswana to the type of deposit, and the depth of mineralisation, improvements in drilling technologies could increase exploration.
He suggests, however, as mining companies learn from challenges and previous mistakes while using improved technology and equipment, they will not encounter the same challenges.
“I think mining always requires affirmation in terms of also requiring juniors and the smaller players to show renewed interest in exploration to gain interest from larger mining houses,” McNeilly says.
Metal Tiger is, therefore, investing in exploration, as it is hopeful that projects will result in showing the scale of the exploration and increase the number of larger players in the area, McNeilly says.
Investors may look to invest in other African countries; however, in terms of jurisdiction and politically stability, Botswana is one of the best African countries in which to invest, he states.
Metal Tiger’s 50%-owned subsidiary Kalahari Metals has entered into a binding agreement with Resource Exploration and Development (RED) to acquire 100% of RED’s Kitlanya subsidiary.
The acquisition will reduce Metal Tiger’s interest in Kalahari Metals to about 43.9%.
Kalahari Metals has completed $100 000 worth of exploration work on the licences held by Kitlanya and will acquire Kitlanya through the issue of $700 000 of Kalahari Metals shares – representing about 13.4% of its share capital – to RED.
The Kitlanya licences comprise five recently granted exploration licences and cover about 4 651 km2 of well-located exploration tenure in the Kalahari copperbelt.
The acquisition will increase Kalahari Metals’ direct land possession in the Kalahari copperbelt to about 8 594 km2.
The company is also considering additional projects to scope out programmes for further exploration.
“We are actively exploring and ‘putting money into the ground’ and hopefully we can start drilling this year and find copper.
“It is never easy to determine what is economic to mine, and the copper market requires very patient investors who understand the bigger and long-term picture, as well as a government that is on board with such activities because it is certainly a risky business,” McNeilly concludes.