Australia’s Sandfire Resources aims to start commercial mining of copper and silver in Botswana’s Kalahari copper belt by 2022, it said on Monday, as the country seeks to curb its dependence on diamond mining.
The Kalahari Copper Belt, which extends for nearly 1,000km from northeast Botswana to western Namibia, is touted as one of the world’s most under-explored copper-silver deposits.
Analysts say it could help Botswana to diversify beyond its mainstay diamond mining, which contributes 70% to its export revenue and has left the southern African country overly exposed to one commodity, especially as the covid-19 pandemic has sapped demand for diamonds.
“We are very excited about the project and the significant potential of the Kalahari copper belt becoming the next global copper mining province,” CEO Karl Simich told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“We are targeting to commission to mine in 2022 and thereafter start expanding to a capacity to 5.3 million tonnes per annum,” he said.
The Perth-based company, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, will begin work on the first phase of 3.2 million tonne per annum next year, Simich said, after its board approved a $259 million investment for its development.
Known as the T3 Motheo project, the Sandfire mine is set to be the second mining operation in the copper belt after the U.S.-based private equity firm Cupric Canyon, which has said it will commission its 3.6 million tonnes Khoemacau mine by mid-2021.
Simich said the mine will produce about 30,000 tonnes of copper and 1.2 million ounces of silver annually over the first 10 years of operations.
(By Brian Benza; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Barbara Lewis)