COVID-19: Mineworkers Return To Botswana Mines

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The mining sector activity is coming back to life as a number of operations are bringing back workers following a near two-month lockdown announced by government on the back of the outbreak of novel coronavirus. At a recent media briefing, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Mmetla Masire said most of the mines have roared back to production. However, only Debswana is still closed while in the downstream, Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) has employees working from home.

“The diamond mining sector has started very well. Last week we saw a lot of the mines starting to revamp and bring their staff back into operation bearing in mind that the sector has been operating as an essential service. Only Debswana had decided to close because they wanted to prepare themselves very well to operate under the new normal. Now we have about 70%-75% of the operations, staff are back on the mines,” Masire said.

He said they have allowed prospecting to increase to 75% and quarries and small mines to 100% and so far the total workforce has gone up from about 9,000 to 13,200. “So, all in all the mining sector seems to be operating reasonably well.”

“The big challenge with the mining sector is more that it is starting to consume a lot of electricity as they ramp up which has an impact on other services that we provide. But other than that everything else under the mining sector is going very well.”

Masire added that they are happy that the diamond beneficiation has also kicked on very well with last week being “a good week”which showed they are back in action.

“They even exported some polished diamonds out, which was a positive sign that we are starting to get back into new normal that they will be getting into. The facilitating organisation DTCB, Diamond Hub and De Beers all came into operation during Phase 2 and are ramping up. They are all sitting at 75%,” he added.

The only company that will remain closed in beneficiation is ODC. Masire said the state-owned company took a decision to have staff continue working from home and only management coming for meetings while their offices “will remain closed”. “ODC is closed because the diamond market is still low.”On the energy sector front, Masire said the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has been operating at around 1,000 employees under Phase 2, and they are going to increase to 1,500 which is 75% of their 2,000 workforce. BPC has increased its workforce which is necessitated by an increase in demand.

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