Putting a Dream on Hold
Gaborone – Botswana was poised to be the mining giant of Southern Africa by the year 2013 after discoveries of several minerals in the country. These included iron ore, gold and more diamonds, to name a few, which have drawn companies from as far as Australia to invest in the country’s mining industry.
But the shortage of electricity in Botswana is forcing mining companies to cut down production and put expansion plans on the back burner.
There is daily electricity load-shedding programme and though mines are exempted from this programme, the general situation means much planning has to be shelved for now. The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) is battling to finalise the 600MW Morupule B Power Station. Morupule B Power Station is being constructed by China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) and was to be complete and handed over in October 2012.
But only one of the four units – the 150MW Circulating Fluidised Bed Power Plant – is online.The government has incurred millions of dollars in expenses on electricity imports and costs of running diesel power generators to supplement for shortage of power generated locally.
BPC is said to have spent more than R3 billion on electricity imports in 2012 alone. Further, the power shortages impact on water supply and this too not only puts pressure on domestic consumers, but also affects industrial and mining output.
Due to the delays of the completion of Morupule B Power Station, the government is seeking augmented supplies from South Africa’s Eskom and other electricity producers. However, South Africa – like other countries in Southern Africa – has its own domestic supply constraints.
The effects of the ongoing electricity crisis are leaving their mark on local businesses. Many are now failing to meet production deadlines as they cannot operate at full capacity. Bolux Milling Plant which is the major supply of all the local flour, maize mille meal and stock feed is struggling to meet consumption demands. The company’s corporate affairs manager, Nkosi Mwaba, says they have to reduce shifts and naturally this means less processed grain and feed stock food is reaching clients.
“We are still able to supply and we are managing the situation as best as we can, but not as efficiently as we should,” Mwaba says The power crisis has sparked water shortages in the capital, Gaborone, and surrounding areas, leading to indirect costs being suffered by the general households and the business community.
“One thing that I say all the time is that I know this power crisis affects business. Power and water are the heartbeat of the economy and one thing I can say is that we are working overtime to repair the situation “One unit (at the power station) is already running and by July 2013 we hope to get the whole plant operational,” Kitso Mokaila, the Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Minister, has said.
Minister Mokaila, who inherited the already troubled ministry from the current Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, says the government has sued CNEEC over the delays in bringing Morupule B Power Station fully online.
“There is recourse and where you prove that you have a claim, you will claim. If you were expecting to have the plant ready by October 2012 and by now you are continuing to import, that’s a cost that you are incurring. As any contract goes along, you will do what is necessary and that’s why we are bringing in the people who have the expertise and can say “now you can claim.”