Thousands of former BCL employees are holding their breath with the hope that the proposed deal by Dubai royal house to buy the closed mine will succeed. Over 6000 of BCL group employees were rendered jobless in October last year when Government – BCL’s sole shareholder – moved to put the mine under provisional liquidation citing the unprofitability of operations. Though this was widely criticised with Government accused of being insensitive, she pointed to the piling debts and growing list of creditors who were demanding their dues. At the time the mine owed suppliers and banks over P1 billion. In particular Government was under pressure to pay Russian miners Norilsk P3 billion for the sale of their African interests which included a stake in Nkomati mine in South Africa and the whole operations of Tati Nickel in Francistown. Though recently BCL liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren had revealed that all the BCL Enterprises were fatally insolvent and was going to recommend final liquidation to the court, on Tuesday his lawyers confirmed that a potential buyer of BCL had made an offer and hence they sought a delay of provisional liquidation. The High Court agreed to delay the provisional liquidation, paving the way for the parties to conclude the deal. The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Green Technology Sadique Kebonang spend a greater part of this week in the United Arab Emirates to finalise and close any loop holes that the buyer would want to have addressed. Sources have revealed that representatives of the company have already visited BCL and are fully informed about the company. It is expected that in coming days Kebonang will present the offer before Cabinet for it to make its final assessment and if it is lucrative enough, approve it.
BDP under pressure
Close observers say the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led Government is under pressure to save the BCL mine and see to the re-employment of thousands of miners who have been retrenched. Though they have been given their retrenchment packages and some have already secured themselves new jobs or started new ventures, thousands are said to be desperate for any new job they could land. Some who could not bear the pressure of being unemployed have already committed suicide, particularly because counselling services were not immediately availed to them when the mine closure was announced. The ruling BDP, which is facing a tough challenge following recent announcement that all opposition parties have come together under the Umbrella for Democratic Change banner, will be hoping that re-opening the mine will win it an acclaim from voters. To demonstrate how serious they took the issue of the mine, Government appointed former Governor of Bank of Botswana Linah Mohohlo to head the strategy of turning around the economy of Selebi-Phikwe and to offset any chance of having the area turn into a ghost town. The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) had also recently claimed that they had identified a potential investor at a Mines and Money conference in London recently. BMWU President Jack Tlhagale confirmed that they attended the conference which attracts mine companies around the world and made a presentation that government was selling its copper nickel mine. It was not immediately clear what the value of the offer was and how soon, if deal is agreed, would the mine re-open. Minister Kebonang could not be reached for comment.