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It had to happen!

SMOKING NO MORE: BCL when it was still active

Molale defends decision to close BCL

It is over two years since the closure of the BCL mine yet the event remains a hotly debated topic.

Recently, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale found himself between a rock and a hard place to either confirm or deny that closing the BCL mine and placing it under liquidation was a mistake.

Responding to a question in parliament, Molale said when the Selibe Phikwe based mine was closed in October 2016, circumstances allowed for its closure.

Not one to mince his words, the Minister insisted the move can never be labelled a mistake.

Molale was being grilled by the Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse who questioned whether government feels it erred by closing the copper mine and subsequently rendering thousands unemployed

With commodity prices, including copper, expected to rise this year, Keorapetse queried the government’s decision.

However, Molale remained resolute.

“At the time of the liquidation, we said one thing we would do is to float the mine to interested bidders and we are still doing that,” explained the minister, adding currently there are two parties interested in acquiring BCL but are yet to make an offer to the liquidator.

It was a statement that opposition leader Duma Boka dismissed as misleading, noting it was impossible for BCL to be acquired at this stage as it is still under liquidation.

Attempting to salvage some good news, Molale revealed the liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren has informed government he feels there is a good opportunity for the mine to re-open at some stage.

Keorapetse had also called for Dixon-Warren’s removal, to which Molale explained the removal of a liquidator in any liquidation matter is one within control and authority of the Master of the High Court as prescribed by the Companies Act.

Molale told parliament that the matter is therefore sub judice (under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere).

Despite government maintaining that the closure had to happen, it could prove costly as the Russian mining giant, Norilsk Nickel is preparing to launch a close to P3 billion claim against BCL over breach of agreement.

In October 2014 the two parties entered into a share sale agreement, which was to be fulfilled by September 2016, only for BCL to be placed under provisional liquidation a month later and subsequently under final liquidation.

Under the sale agreement, BCL was to acquire Norilsk Nickel’s 50 percent interests in Nkomati Mine situated in Mpumalanga Province in South Africa and Tati Nickel Mine.

The two are now preparing to face-off in London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) after the Botswana Court of Appeal gave Norilsk the go ahead to pursue its US$271 million claim there.

Norilsk wants BCL to pay this amount for failing to honour its obligations in terms of the share sale agreement which never happened.

In addition, Norilsk has also filed for separate case against the Government of Botswana for what it terms ‘reckless trading’, seeking a declaration that government, as the sole shareholder, is responsible for all liabilities of BCL entities.