I extend my sincere gratitude to the organisers, Koos Segola Business Solutions, and all the sponsors of the Mining Expo for making this a worthy event. I am reliably informed that the international organisers, “Spire Events of Singapore”, has successfully organised and hosted similar conferences in other parts of the world, and I am delighted that you have found it befitting to honour us with such a Conference. This Mining Conference - Mining Investment Botswana 2017, comes at a very critical time in the history of our country. It comes at a time of celebration and great fanfare when we are in the middle of a big 50th birthday party for the country. But it also comes at a time when we have to soberly reflect and chart the way forward for the next 50 years. As we celebrate and reflect, we cannot forget that our development success as a country has been premised on natural resources, for which “diamonds” have been at the pinnacle of the development story. The question that naturally comes to mind is “have we been sustainable enough in conserving our natural resources, if not, what better interventions do we require to sustain the nation for the next 50 years and beyond”? Botswana has ensured that sustainable environmental management forms a core part of all mining activities. We continue to do this through partnerships and engagements with the mining industry, and importantly through implementation of the Environmental Assessment Act.
The objective of this approach is to ensure that the impacts associated with mining development are managed accordingly and in a manner that is not detrimental to the environment. The Government, through my Ministry, advocates for sustainable development and sustainable use of natural resources as the cornerstone of our National Development Plan 11 and Vision 2036. It is therefore important to consider this principle in our planning processes at all times. I have no doubt in my mind that most of the participants in this conference have witnessed devastating environmental impacts else in the world as a result of mining. Mining as an extractive industry is by its nature, destructive. Our view is that whilst mining drives the economic development of many nations across the globe, it must not be done at the detriment of the environment and its people. As a country we believe it is necessary to have that balance for the sake of sustainability and ecosystem equilibrium instead of being driven by profitability as it seems to be the case in some instances elsewhere. It is therefore important to ensure that there is strict compliance to the Environmental statutes. We continue to do our level best to maintain this philosophy and we urge every nation, every developer, and research institutions to do mining with this in mind. Most importantly it is necessary for the industry to consider establishing a fund that will contribute to mitigation effects of the mining on the environment. I have no doubt in my mind that most of the participants in this conference have witnessed devastating environmental impacts else in the world as a result of mining. This Conference brings in experts from across the world who, I am sure, will share their views objectively in dealing with highly complex, sensitive, and emotional issues of mining and sustainability. As a Politician, I sometimes have to address highly charged communities whilst trying to create a balance through conservation, sustainable use and economic development. I must confess that this has never been an easy undertaking, but I am sure the expertise here will provide the necessary solutions to make mining a better and environmentally friendly undertaking. We have communities that have long relied on river sand for construction purposes. On the other hand, some ‘entrepreneurs’ have found a cash-cow in river sand, which has seen exploitation and damage to our ecosystem. We are now grappling with policy as we desperately try to save our rivers, but we have pressure from the communities who have always used and managed the rivers sustainably in the past. The future of our economy has always been built on sustenance to benefit generations to come. This is the ideal for which we must all defend.
Mining and tourism are natural resource based, and therefore conservation and sustainability issues will always arise and hence the need for a balance. Government of Botswana has prioritized tourism as an avenue through which the national economy can be diversified. My Ministry is mandated to lead this process by exploring and actualizing projects and partnerships towards tourism product development and diversification. I have taken note that this event has explored the domain that mining provides to tourism. I wish to share with you some positive thoughts about mining and tourism that my ministry is progressing on. As part of the tourism product development and diversification drive, we are in the process of opening up some of our mines for purposes of tourism. Already plans are ongoing to open up and strengthen the tourism contribution of Debswana’s Orapa, Lethakane and Damtshaa mines through expansion of the Orapa Game Park under a project by the name Orapa Today Boteti Tomorrow. By the way, by hosting this conference here as stakeholders in the mining industry you have contributed to the number of tourist arrivals. Our service industry in the form of transport, hotels and restaurants have benefited from this event. It is my believe that with your active involvement in the mining and tourism industry, our national drive towards diversifying the tourism product and further improving tourism’s contribution to the national economy will be realised. Now, on a business note, I invite you to invest in sustainable mining businesses Botswana, and to freely engage my Ministry in order for us to facilitate such investments. I would like assure you that my Ministry will support and facilitate you as much as possible within our mandate for the timely issuance of necessary permits such as Environmental Authorisations and Tourism Licenses. With those brief remarks, I declare this Mining Expo official open, and wish you prosperity in your future engagements.
*This is part of a keynote address delivered by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama at the International Conference on Mining Investment in Gaborone, Botswana on the 13th February 2017