Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

GABORONE — Botswana’s mining industry faces further job losses as it reels from the global slump in commodities, with copper miner BCL set to shed up to a third of its workforce and Gem Diamond also planning lay offs, the mines department said on Friday.

State-owned BCL, Botswana’s biggest copper miner, estimates it will have to cut as many as 2,000 of its 6,000 workforce as it streamlines operations in the face of weak copper prices, currently at six-year lows, the department’s director told local newspaper Mmegi.

London-listed Gem Diamond expects diamond production at its Ghaghoo mine in central Botswana to fall by more than half this year due to depressed demand for diamonds globally. It may have to lay off more than two-thirds of its workforce as it restructures to cope with the weak market.

Botswana is the world’s biggest producer of diamonds, and exports of diamonds mined in the country fell 38% to $2.4 billion last year, the southern African country’s lowest shipment of gems in six years.

"The figures are not final yet, but BCL plans to cut 2,000 jobs while Ghaghoo might lay off as much as 100," Department of Mines Director Gabotshwarege Tshekiso told Mmegi on Friday.

"We are hoping the effects of these cuts might be mitigated by the upcoming Khoemacau Copper Mining and Lerala Diamond Mine which might absorb some of the redundant workers," Mr Tshekiso said.

The Khoemacau project, expected to generate up to 400 jobs during the 2016 construction phase, is spearheaded by US-based Cupric Canyon Capital, which has already invested over $250 million in the copper and silver mine according to sources.

Production at Kimberley Diamonds’ Lerala mine, northeast of the capital Gaborone, is due to start late this year. Kimberley is redeveloping the mine which was mothballed in 2012 by its previous owners De Beers and the government.

The latest warnings on job cuts comes after copper mining contractor Moolman Mining cut 500 jobs in December and African Copper cut 340 jobs in late 2015.

Botswana said on Tuesday that it expects its mining revenues to fall by 8% in 2016 due to the continued fall in global commodity demand, led mainly by the economic slowdown in leading minerals importer China.

Reuters