Morupule coal mine representatives said as part of their effort to engage with all their stakeholders, they held a kgotla meeting on Wednesday in Serowe to give the community feedback on the Socio-Economic Assesment they did in the communities that make part of the mine, and it was also to update them on the projects going on at the mine, which include the open cast project which is currently underway.
In an interview with the Patriot on Sunday,Morupule Coal Mine Chief Public Affairs officer Boineelo Seitshero said as a mine they have a programme that they subscribe to that is called Social Performance. She said the programme is done to make sure that they engage a lot with their stakeholders. “ In this case our stakeholder is the community and the reason why we are doing that is we are trying to minimize the the risks that are caused by mine activities, and we also want to maximize on the benefits of the community from the mine hence the study” she said.
According to Seitshiro, for the past three years they worked on the information that was given to them by the community on what the can do to mitigate some of the impacts that the communities surrounding the mine regarded as impacts to them, so today she said was about giving them feedback that out of the things that they mentioned in terms of impacts which of them they have done.
She said some of the impacts that they addressed during the study include, inadequate stakeholders’ engagement. “They felt we are not engaging them in terms of what is happening at the mine and hence why we have brought the relevant people to come and give the community update on the mine including the upcoming projects” said Seitshero.
Seitshero said the other issue of contention was employment and procurement, which the community felt the mine is not meeting their expectations in terms of providing employment to the local people and providing procurement opportunities to the community. “In terms of employment issues, we try by all means to follow the employment act regulations, but at the same time we understand that we have locals who are unskilled labors, so we have signed a memorandum of agreement with labor departments in Serowe and Palapye and we have recently added Paje, so that when we need their services then we can get them from them instead of the street” she added.
She further said its only when the job need a minimum requirement, that is, someone with experience that they advertise the post, ‘but we are talking about only 10%, the other 90% is taken from labor offices’ she added.
She additionally said in terms of procurement, the mine have introduced a Local Procument Policy which she said they have decided that some of the goods that are produced are reserved for local companies. “we have also engaged in supplier development where we are saying that if there is a company that registered with our system and it is not doing well in terms of supplying us, we go hand in hand with them in such a way that they will in future be able to supply other goods that they are not supplying right now” she said.
She said to further help with the development of the communities, they have engaged with UNICEF, so that they maybe take 10 of the mine suppliers and put them on their programme to develop them.
Seitshero said the study also involved the issue of nuisance factor, which the community wanted to know how the mine will mitigate the dust which has the potential to risk their health and the contaminations of their boreholes. She said the mine did studies that they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the community will not be put at risk. “ We are doing monitoring, whether it is the dust or contaminations of boreholes, as the gentleman said earlier, we have put up boreholes around the mine that we are using as projects to monitor contamination and pollution, and when those boreholes becomes contaminated, we will know that the community boreholes are contaminated as well” she said.
“In terms of dust we have assured them that we keep it at limit that is allowed by regulations, so we ensure we don’t exceed it by putting up suppression systems in place like sprinkling water to minimize dust and make sure we put at allowed level” she added.
She also said studies and audits are done to check whether they are in line with what regulation is saying.
In addition she said the mine s also engaged in corporate social responsibilities and that it have developed a policy in place that governs how they assist the community. “ we are doing a lot in terms of education, we have adopted Palapye Secondary School, we have also signed Memorandum of Agreement with BIUST, we are assisting them in terms of the job training, there are also helping us with research on our coal on how best we can utilize it” she said.
She implored the community of Serowe to take advantage of these developments. She said that the feedback that they brought to the community of Serowe was to show them that they take heed of their needs. She said they will be working on another assessment, and it will continue to involve villages that are within their zone of influence.
For his part Morupule Coal Mine community Liaison Manager Letsibogo Ndwapi added that they found it necessary to update the community on further developments and projects in the mine, because the community continues to play an important role in the development of it.
He told the residents that the preparations for the Open Cast project have started. “The construction of the plant foundation and perimeter fencing to secure the place is ongoing” he said.
He also told them that as much as they engaged them in the beginning when they asked for them to move their fields to accommodate the mine; he said they are going to continue updating them on the plant progress.
He also said the Open Cast which was born in 2014 is going to improve the lives of the residents and the economy of the country.
“So far over 95% of employees at the construction site for the plant foundation site is Batswana, we have encouraged the companies to hire Batswana,” assured Ndwapi.
He said the economic boast to the country will be big because the demand for the coal is growing at the moment, and he said there are also looking for further beneficiation of using coal. “ the project is going to benefit the country in that we are going to export more coal to South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, when the rail network to the sea is completed then we will have even more exports overseas, we have sent coal to Turkey…in terms of beneficiation, if you look at what the Chinese are doing which is turning coal into liquids, coal to gasification, these are opportunities of people who are looking for investment options to look at coal and see how to utilize it” he said.
Ndwapi said the full production of the project is expected to commence in the middle of this year.