Q. Give us a brief background to the association and its mandate
A. The Small Scale Miners Association of Botswana has its origins in 2019. It was registered under the Societies Act on 3rd November 2022. The principal mandate of the association is to promote speaking with one voice in the industry by small scale miners and stakeholders.
Q. What are some examples of small scale mining activities that your membership is interested in?
A. Our members have interests in gravel extraction, riversand mining, quarrying, and diamond cutting and polishing
Q. What problems face the small scale mining sector in Botswana?
A. Lack of government support in the sector and funding. Small miners also need protection from unfair competition with councils to benefit from government and council tenders.
Reforming the legal framework for full formalisation of the sector to benefit from international funders and donors is needed and has been called for by the World Bank and other international organisations. The existing legal framework does not permit small scale miners to prosper.
Q. So it is not easy for small scale miners to raise funds for operations?
A. Not at all. The barriers to entry are still high. People in the sector are called speculators, which I consider an insult to the indigenous people because they have every right to mine their natural resources and to even speculate.
Q. What do you expect of the government as one of your main stakeholders concerning issues of structural reform to support the sector?
A. We are calling for reforms in laws and policies to enable the average Motswana to participate and fully benefit from our natural resources as people do in other countries. The government must support our association in line with citizen economic empowerment programmes, the mining vision of Africa, as well as international funders and donors. If we cannot fully formalize, we stand to miss the train.
Q. What progress has so far been in the association’s efforts to formalise the sector?
A. Botswana has lagged in recognition of the benefits of small scale mining, depriving itself of economic wealth from the sector. The Small Scale Miners Association of Botswana has reached out to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Green Technology. The idea was to introduce ourselves officially to the minister and to highlight our concerns, which include maladministration at the Department of Mines.
Q. Can you be more specific about efforts in formalization?
A. Efforts in formalisation include engaging the relevant ministry to acknowledge and recognise our association. But this has proven difficult as our meeting that was scheduled recently was postponed and there has been no communication from the ministry since. We have moved to engage Mr Gobusamang Keebine, the president of Business Botswana, to help with setting up a meeting with the ministry.
Q. It is essential for the small scale mining sector to integrate into the greater mining community? Has this been a challenge?
A. Unlike in other countries there is no relationship between small scale miners and the large scale miners in Botswana. This is why we have approached the Botswana Chamber of Mines to create some rapproachment that may lead to synergy between the large scale miners and the small scale miners.
There is no relationship at all. Even in the constitution of the Botswana Chamber of Mines does not cater for us. We have put in an application for registration by the chamber to foster the relationships we seek between us through it. In other countries, the relationship goes beyond just Corporate Social Responsibility and such programmes.
Q. Do you think it is in the government’s interests to allow small scale mining of diamonds in Botswana?
A. It is certainly in the best interests of the government. From my understanding of the industry, experts such as Leon Daniels of Pangolin Diamonds, from his presentation at a mining conference in Gaborone, small scale mining is the future because the most economically viable kimberlites to be discovered in Botswana will be small, including dykes and small pipes fitting into a 50hectare area.
Q. What do you think will be the effect of adjusting the minerals permit to include diamonds? Do you think this will encourage development of Batswana-owned small mines?
A. Section 52(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act excludes diamonds from minerals. This does not make sense because that means even if you find a small diamond deposit, you have to go through all the requirements for a full mining licence whereas the requirements for a minerals permit – which is considered to be small scale mining – are less rigorous and require less investigating.
The minerals permit section was established to encourage development of small mines. So if the deposit that you find is a diamond deposit and is small deposit and can fit into the 50ha area, that’s the maximum permissible size for a small mine. Why not have it in there then?
According to industry experts, the future of diamond mines in Botswana is going to be in small scale mines. If diamonds are put back into the minerals permit, it will encourage development of small mines. I agree with this thinking, though it must be highlighted again that there are more barriers to entry. The requirement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (E.I.A) is expensive to meet and the need for funding of the small scale miner.