Botswana government anger foreign investors and local workers

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After the announcement of the stealth liquidation of BCL mining company, the Botswana government faced criticism from miners, who questioned the legitimacy of the Nkomati mine closure and the reasons provided. Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) said in January that it would do everything it could to ensure the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lost in the upcoming by-election in Palapye.

BMWU Secretary General MbiganyiRamokate said that the decision to help opposition parties was a result of the provisional liquidation of BCL and Tati-Nickel in SelibePhikwe which led to over 5,000 job losses among mine workers.  He also incidated that more than 20 former BCL employees have committed suicide after losing their jobs late last year because they were never given counseling prior to losing their jobs.

Ramokate claimed that some of the lies told were that the mine is deep and therefore dangerous and expensive to mine and that the resources were depleted. “We all know that the deepest shaft is 1,540 meter level as opposed to over 3,000 plus meter lever of other mines elsewhere and that the resource statement contradicts reports that the ore is depleted.”

“Botswana and Phikwe residents were also told that Norilsk Nickel is owed over $270m, however, this is disputed by the same government that the company is not a creditor and has no right to enforce. It was said that the government has been pumping in money into the mine for 37 years; something which facts from BCL documents show is not true.”

The BMWU were also disheartened by the government’s dishonesty and claimed that miners were not paid since October 2016, despite the assertion that all workers had received their benefits before Christmas. The mine hospital was due to be kept open for another year, and the local school was to receive payments for the children’s education, however neither of those promises has been kept.

There is also suspicion about the circumstances of liquidation. Ramotake added “the government refuses to talk about the $4 per Pound Recovery Plan for BCL prior to liquidation. Further and very profound, there is refusal to talk about BCL exploration projects; the company had discovered diamonds through its exploration ventures and there is secrecy and conspiracies about the future of these resources. There are reports that some people want to steal these diamonds”.

The Botswana government’s stealth liquidation is implemented clearly to avoid Norilsk Nickel being able to obtain their money through legal proceedings.  This is the main reason why the Russian company has already welcomed the interest from Emirates Investment House and now awaits the UAE based company’s proposal to the BCL liquidators.

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