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The mineral industry of Botswana has dominated the national economy since the early 1990s. Diamond has been the leading component of the mineral sector since large-scale diamond production began 25 years ago. It has fueled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP, 70-80% of export earnings, and about half of the government's revenues. Botswana's heavy reliance on a single luxury export was a critical factor in the sharp economic contraction of 2009. Government announced in early 2009, that they would try and shift their economic dependence on diamonds, over serious concern that diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years.

In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining is projected to begin by 2010. Most of Botswana’s diamond production was of gem quality, which resulted in the country’s position as the world’s leading producer of diamond by value. Copper, gold, nickel, and soda ash production also has held traditionally significant, though smaller, roles in the national economy.

Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results.

International interest in exploration for diamond and base and precious metals is expected to continue. The country’s favorable geologic environment, mineral investment climate, low tax rates, and political stability are expected to continue to make Botswana a foreign mineral investment magnet. The government encourages mineral value-added processing, but the paucity of water in landlocked Botswana has deterred large-scale industrial development.

Given the country’s extensive coal resources and projected regional power demand, Botswana has the potential to develop and support a small-scale coal-bed methane industry and additional coal-fueled electricity-generating plants that could supply power to the South African Power Pool through its land lines to South Africa

Two large mining companies, Debswana (formed by the government and South Africa's De Beers in equal partnership) and Bamangwato Concessions Ltd. (BCL, also with substantial government equity participation) operate in the country.

Botswana’s mining industry provides employment for approximately 13 000 people, of which 80% are employed by Debswana and BCL.


All diamond mining in Botswana is controlled by Debswana; there are no private diamond mining operations in the country. Combined production of the company's four mines totaled 30 million carats (6,000 kg), nearly a quarter of the world's annual production of around 130 million carats (26,000 kg). The high value per weight of diamonds mined by Debswana has made the company the leading producer of diamonds by value in the world. In 2005, Debswana treated about 31.2 million metric tons (Mt) of ore to yield 31.89 million carats, which was an increase of more than 2% compared with carat production in 2004.

Numerous other companies were exploring for diamond in Botswana. Active exploration operations included those of Boteti Exploration (Pty.) Ltd., Gcwihaba Resources (Pty.) Ltd., Helio Resources Corp., Newdico (Pty.) Ltd., Tawana Resources N.L., Rio Tinto Mining and Exploration Ltd. and Trivalence Mining Corp. In addition, DiamonEx Ltd. of Australia started a re-evaluation of the Martin’s Drift prospect, which was a 5-kimberlite deposit that had been trial mined by Tswapong Mining Co. from 1998 to 2001, and Petra Diamonds Ltd. of the Channel Islands acquired Kalahari Diamond Ltd. and its Botswana-based subsidiary Sekaka Diamonds (Pty.) Ltd.


Mupane Gold operated the Mupane Mine, which was located about 30 km southwest of Francistown. At the Mupane plant, Mupane Gold commissioned a ball mill, installed a flotation plant to handle sulfide and transition zone gold ore, and upgraded the oxygen plant. Gallery Gold continued exploration of other gold occurrences near the Mupane facility.

Copper & Nickel

In eastern Botswana, the smelter operated by BCL Ltd. of Botswana processed copper-nickel concentrate from the company’s Selebi-Phikwe Mine. BCL also toll-smelted concentrate from the Phoenix open pit mine which was operated by Tati Nickel Mining Co. During 2005, the BCL smelter produced 68,637 metric tons of nickel-copper-cobalt matte. In 2002, BCL and Falconbridge agreed to extend to 2015 the tolling agreement under which BCL-mined nickel matte was refined in Norway. The reserves at the Selebi-Phikwe Mine, however, were expected to be exhausted by 2011 or 2012. The output of copper-nickel matte from the BCL smelter traditionally has exceeded the smelter’s 60,000-metric-ton-per-year design capacity, often by more than 30%.

In 2005, Discovery Nickel Ltd. continued its exploration drilling on the Northeast Botswana Brownfields nickel project, which included the Dikoloti, the Dikoloti North, the Kima, and the Lentswe prospects.

Mineral Law & Legislation

Because the Government’s partnership with De Beers in the diamond industry has proved so mutually beneficial, it has approached the perceived need to update existing mineral legislation pragmatically. The Mines and Minerals Act of 1977 has been revised to incorporate changes designed to facilitate the issuing of exploration and mining licenses and to make Government participation in new developments more attractive to investor. The new Mines and Minerals Act was passed in July 1999. The main innovation in the revised Act is the introduction of the retention license, designed to accommodate explorers who on making a discovery may find it cannot immediately be mined economically.

While the Government will retain the right to acquire a minority interest in new mines, this will now generally be up to a maximum of 15%, and will be on commercial terms with the Government paying its pro-rata share of costs incurred. Taxation of mining companies outside the diamond industry has also been revised with a new variable rate income tax replacing project-specific rates. The new rate will normally be 25%, increasing on a sliding scale for very profitable projects up to a theoretical maximum of 50%, determined annually by reference to the mining company’s profit ratio.

Procedures for small-scale mining are also being simplified and some royalty rates will be reduced. For diamonds, the new act will apply only as far as the discovery stage, and thereafter the process of individual negotiations will remain applicable to the development of new mines. Royalty rates, calculated as a percentage of the gross market value of the mineral, are currently 10% for precious stones (including diamonds), 5% for radioactive minerals, precious metals, semi-precious stones and coal, 3% for all other minerals, including building and industrial mineral products.

Botswana has a National Conservation Strategy Coordinating Agency which promotes the use of environment impact assessment. Sectorally the regulations under the Act contain detailed requirements for environment control.

Applications for mineral rights are made to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Water Affairs through the Geological Surveys Department (exploration) or the Department of Mines (mining). There are three types of mineral rights in Botswana (a reconnaissance permit, a prospecting license and a mining lease). The rights may be granted to an individual or company as provided for in the Act.

Major Players in the Industry

Key Figures

  • Gold production: 2,800 kilograms (2006)
  • Diamond Production: estimated at 31 million carats (2005)
  • Copper production: 26,100 metric tons (2005)
  • Cobalt production: 200 metric tons (2005)
  • Nickel production: 28,000 metric tons (2005)
  • Platinum-group metals production: 2,000 kilograms (2006)
  • Salt production: 210 thousand metric tons (2006)
  • Soda Ash production: 250 thousand metric tons (2006)

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