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Botswana has intensified efforts to digitise and make geoscience information readily available to local and international potential investors in an effort to encourage prospecting for non-diamond minerals, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi told the virtual 2021 Investing in African Mining Indaba on Wednesday.

Masisi said that Botswana’s over-dependence on diamonds had more than ever made it imperative for country to urgently expand its revenue base to other minerals.

While the diamond sector had played a pivotal role in the socioeconomic development of Botswana, he drew attention to the country’s copper, nickel, silver, soda ash and gold endowments, among others

“The development of the minerals industry in Botswana is in full steam, as evidenced by several ongoing exploration projects and the issuance of mining licences to private companies,” he told the conference.

Masisi noted that the advent of the electric vehicle had boosted global demand for rare earth elements and battery metals.

“Rare earth metals are necessary components for many products across a wide range of applications, especially high-technology consumer products such as cellular telephones and computer hard drives,” he said.

Furthermore, complexes were being assessed for mapping that would promote mineral prospecting and subsequent mining. Another key project intended to encourage mineral prospecting was the identification of cement-grade calcrete and limestone deposits.

Mines and metals policy was being reviewed to guide expedited growth of the minerals sector. The policy would aim to maximise economic benefits and facilitate private sector involvement in minerals developments. It would also contribute to the legislative review that would put policy in line with international best practice and be attractive to potential investors.

“Botswana is making efforts to promote the ease of doing business,” he said.

The coming into force of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement would, he predicted, go a long way towards stimulating intra-Africa trade. It would also boost the trading position of the continent’s mineral-rich countries in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.

He added that the conference itself underscored the regional objectives as outlined in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional indicative strategic development plan, which ran from 2015 to 2020.

With a combined population of more than 250-million people, the SADC region offered important market opportunities for its member States and particularly for its vast natural resources.

“This also offers a unique opportunity to attract investment in the extractive industries,” he added.

The Covid-19 pandemic had diminished revenue in Botswana, where the pandemic continued to pose challenges for the diamonds industry.

“We’ve seen a drastic drop in raising funding for mineral prospecting and development of projects the world over. This has also brought uncertainty to the industry, with countries and businesses struggling with production and revenue forecasts, as well as job losses.

“Tough times like these call for great collaboration among industry players, particularly government and the private sector, to ensure the rebuilding of the mining sector. These challenges call for creativity and radical solutions to enhance the performance of the minerals sector,” he said.

“The development of the minerals industry in Botswana is in full steam, as evidenced by several ongoing exploration projects and the issuance of mining licences to private companies,” he said.

“This move will also catalyse private sector involvement in driving the beneficiation of minerals and as such creating more jobs downstream, particularly for our young people.

“In this regard, Botswana has put in place strategies for mineral beneficiation, which include base metals refineries, encompassing the identification of suitable projects in copper, iron and nickel, as well as the creation of an enabling environment to drive these projects.

“The country is also expanding diamond processing beyond cutting and polishing by introducing alternative and additional diamond supply elements. This will provide impetus for secondary rough trading, polished trading, space to support diamond busines incubation and other diamond support services,” said Masisi.

Further, plans were at an advanced stage for the development of a multi-commodity exchange, which offered a platform for trading various commodities beyond minerals. These initiatives would provide unlimited opportunities for investment in the minerals sector in Botswana.