Minister finally renews Canadian miner’s prospecting licence

Francinah Baaitse
UNDER PRESSURE: Moagi

With the threat of jail looming, Minerals Minister, Lefoko Moagi, has backed down in the stand-off with Gchwihaba Resources, finally carrying out High Court’s order to renew the Canadian miners’ prospecting licence.

It marks the end of a messy fall-out dating back to November 2021, when government only renewed four of Gchwihaba’s five prospecting licences.

The rejected licence covers a small area close to Shakawe, where an estimated US$87 million (close to P1.2 billion) worth of high-grade iron ore lies buried beneath the surface.

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On 15th December last year, High Court ruled in favour of Gchwihaba, instructing government to renew the licence within 14 days, describing their continued failure to do so as ‘illegal and irrational’.

However, when the deadline elapsed with no renewal forthcoming, the mining giants again approached High Court in January, accusing Minister Moagi of contempt of court.

They requested the minister be locked up if he continued to ignore the court’s ruling.

It seems the pressure has paid off.

Announcing the new development in a media statement on Tuesday, Tsodilo Resources – Gchwihaba’s parent company – revealed the peace pipe had been smoked.

“The five licences have been renewed for their first two-year renewal, to commence April 1st, 2024. We would also like to thank Minister Lefoko Moagi and the team for their diligence in renewing the licence in a timely fashion,” read part of the statement.

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Infamous licence number five covers land that lies 60 kilometres from the Okavango Delta, declared a World Heritage Site in 2014.

To protect the Delta, government designated it a ‘core zone’, strictly limiting mining activities in the area.

For additional protection, government labelled land around the core as a ‘buffer zone’ – it so happens that licence number five lies in one such ‘buffer zone’.

However, the restrictions do not apply in this zone, which is why Gchwihaba were so upset when government refused to renew the licence.

“If one reads the record, you will find that in 2013 and 2014, the State Party explicitly tells UNESCO in their application documents that mining and exploration are not prohibited in the buffer zone – plain and simple, end of story. We merely had to submit the government’s own documents to the court to prove our point!” explained James M Bruchs, a Managing Director of Gchwihaba, in a previous interview with The Voice. Check out the full interview online at https://thevoicebw.com/mining-giants-decry-sabotage/

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