• Copper mines royalties suspended
• Load shedding to continue
• BPC denies likely explosion of Morupule B
Government has taken a step to assist local mining companies, especially the struggling copper miners, by suspending payments of royalties.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday in Gaborone, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila said Discovery Metals and African Copper - the country’s two privately owned copper mines - will be saved from paying royalties for up to a year.
This, he says, is a deliberate effort by government to assist in cutting the mining companies’ expenditure and assist in job creation. The government decision will, according to Mokaila, be reviewed after a year to determine whether the market has recovered enough for the two companies to start making considerable profits.
Weak international copper prices hit the local mining sector hard and culminated with the closure of Discovery Metals’ Boseto mine. The mine’s closure resulted in the loss of more than 400 jobs. About 40 percent of the mine’s overhead cost were, according to Mokaila, from running diesel generators.
He explained that to further address power deficiency, government is looking into other avenues like renewable energy. Mokaila said his ministry plans to open solar power plant in the Maun area to supply energy to the now defunct Boseto Copper mine near Toteng in the outskirts of Maun and the soon to be commissioned Khoemacau copper mine. “We realise that renewable energy can work for us given the vast sunlight that goes to waste,” he said. Mokaila’s ministry will soon float a tender for companies interested to build the solar power plant. About three companies have expressed interest to acquire Boseto mine.
Meanwhile, the nation will have to wait two more years to enjoy the full benefits of Morupule B Power plant if all its current defects are to be fixed fully. Mokaila said that though government has currently employed interim measures to keep the plant going, it is anticipated that for it to get fully operational then it will take quite some time.
Morupule is currently running on two out of its four units. Of the two that are running, only one is fully performing, the other one which is experiencing boiler defects is only giving out about half of total output. The other two units are not running completely.
Of the two, which are not working one unit is expected to run at full capacity by June while the other is expected to work by July this year. According to Mokaila, load shedding will drop a bit when the three units are working, with supplementary of 100 megawatts that is being imported from Eskom.
Average nationwide power consumption is, according to Botswana Power Corporation CEO Jacob Raleru, about 400 megawatts. Morupule B is only churning out 220 megawatts daily. This has led to evident power deficiency nationwide which regularly results in power outages.
Although recent reports suggests that Morupule B power units have now become serious hazards with possibilities of them exploding. Mokaila dismissed such reports as baseless. Adding on the Minister’s statement Raleru said Morupule B has functional protection devices to prevent explosions.
According to Raleru all power plants can explode, hence it is mandated by laws that inspections of these devices be carried out to ensure that everything is in order. Raleru refuted allegations that there might be some official documents that BPC is aware of, which warns of this anomaly. He explained that the Morupule B plant units undergo routine check-ups and if there were any sign of serious hazards then it could have long been picked and duly reported.
The minister dismissed allegations that construction of Morupule B plant has exceeded budget put forward by government. He insisted that contrary to these reports there are still funds left to repair defects that are currently experienced by the plant. According to Mokaila, a total of P11 billion was reserved for the project, out of which P3 billion was for transportation and water connection and P8 billion for the project logistics.