He is the Managing Director of one of Botswana’s leading explosives and blasting engineering companies, Marung Development Services (MDS).
Born and raised in Tonota, Sebele Molalapata, has extensive knowledge and experience in mining and quarrying, having worked in both government and the private sector. He has worked for some of the biggest explosives and accessories manufacturers and suppliers in Southern Africa (AEL Limited) and he has also worked for some of the biggest mining houses in Botswana and Southern Africa.
These include Debswana /De Beers, Norilsk Nickel/Tati Nickel, and Leighton Contractors/Majwe Mining.
He has also pioneered blasting projects internationally, which include large-scale production blasting to within 50 meters of a two-story, secondary crusher building at Debswana’s Letlhakane Mine.
Some of the projects he has led in the various operations include; Reverse Circulation (RC) Drilling for Dynamic Resource Modeling, Introduction of vehicle monitoring and dispatch systems for equipment optimization as well as for material management and tracking, drill monitoring and positioning systems, project verification and validation, as well as re-opening of previously closed mines.
You have extensive knowledge of Mining Operational. Please take us back to your early days as a mining professional. Where did it all start?
I did my Mining Engineering training in Canada and graduated in 1986.
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I then worked for the Department of Mines till 1989 whereupon I joined AECI Explosives in RSA.
I started with their technical wing called Blast Consult and rose through the ranks till 1994 when I was the Business Manager for Botswana.
I then joined Debswana and rose through the ranks to Section Manager level in 2005.
Then I was with Tati Nickel till 2011 and I joined Majwe Mining as their first Technical Services Manager till 2013.
It was in 2013 that I retired from formal employment to start Marung Development Services and JSI Rock Tools.
And like they say ‘the rest is history.
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You also founded MDS. Take us through that.
Marung Development Services was founded in 2007 in anticipation that someday I will want to pursue my passion in Mining.
I envisaged a time when I will be doing Drilling and Blasting for Mining houses because I believed that the citizenry needed to be active in the Mining sector.
However, when I retired, I started JSI Rock Tools to offer ground engaging tools to the drilling companies because I did not have the required profile to afford expensive drilling equipment.
An opportunity came my way through a contractor that was contracted by African Copper mines in Thakadu to supply ground engaging tools, and I never looked back.
I started marketing Marung Development Services (MDS) and JSI Rock Tools to the big mining houses such as Tati Nickel, Debswana and Lucara.
In 2018 MDS was awarded a drilling contract by Lucara that was for three years, and this has given us a platform to showcase our premium products and services to the Mining Industry.
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For many years mining jobs have been a preserve for foreign companies. How did you manage to get lucrative contracts with reputable names such as Debswana and Lucara.?
It took years of perseverance and persistence to market and package our products to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
We often say that with MDS and JSI you don’t just get products and services, but you also get peace of mind’.
Our products performed exceptionally well in Orapa, and our drilling services at Lucara earned us not only a contract extension but also an increase in scope to include blasting services.
What are the challenges faced by citizen-owned companies like yours?
The main challenges are to do with access to finance and cash flow management.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made matters worse and has changed requirements in terms of the way we transport employees and in the way we avail office space.
What exactly does an explosives and blasting company do?
A drilling and blasting company provides drilling expertise as well as blasting expertise to the Mine owner. Drilling and blasting is a specialized function within the mining value chain, and we have demonstrated over time that we are in it for the passion, and not just for the money.
What is your current staff compliment?
Between the two operations (Lucara Botswana’s Karowe Diamond Mine and MP Mining’s Mowana Copper Mine) MDS has a complement of 94 people.
Where do you see MDS in the next 10 years?
At MDS we have a vision to be the Mining Services and Supplies partner of choice in the Botswana Mining Industry.
We want to do that by unlocking the potential in individuals and teams so that they can in turn unlock the potential in the assets of that nature and sustain the company.
You recently built two houses for a needy family. Are there any other CSR projects you’re working on?
CSR projects are a demonstration of corporate responsibility, and MDS certainly takes this responsibility seriously.
We will continue in our endeavor to identify projects that we can engage in to make a lasting impact in the communities in which we operate.