Botswana: Mineral Industry Overview

Botswana’s mineral resources include base metals, coal, diamond, salt, and soda ash. Mineral exploration in Botswana is difficult because the geology of most of Botswana is poorly understood owing to extensive cover by recent sediments, and available geologic information was based mainly on drilling and geophysical surveys. Unexploited mineral resources include asbestos, chromite, feldspar, graphite, gypsum, iron, and manganese that are located mostly in remote areas or beneath a thick sequence of Kalahari sands.

The geologic evolution of Botswana took place during several important metallogenic epochs. In Botswana, the Zimbabwe craton hosts copper, gold, lead, nickel, and zinc mineralization and the Limpopo Mobile Belt contains copper, nickel, and minor occurrences of precious metals. The Transvaal Supergroup contains asbestos, iron, and manganese. The Molopo Farms Complex was thought to contain chromite and platinum-group metals. The Karoo Supergroup is the largest stratigraphic unit in southern Africa, covering almost two-thirds of the present land surface, including central Cape Province, almost all of Orange Free State, western Natal, and much of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Transvaal. Major deposits of coal and diamondiferous rocks occur in the Karoo. Deep sedimentary basins within the Damara Province were thought to be potential hydrocarbon traps. The Makgadikgadi Basin, which is a relatively young geologic feature, has deposits of salt and soda ash (Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, 2009).

Mineral exploration and mining in Botswana are regulated by the Department of Geological Survey and the Department of Mines. The Department of Geological Survey’s role is to gather, collate, assess, and disseminate information related to the groundwater, rocks, and mineral resources of the country. It also administers those sections of the Mines and Minerals Act that concern mineral exploration. Three basic types of mining licenses are granted in Botswana—the reconnaissance permit, the prospecting license, and the mining lease. Mineral rights are the property of the state, irrespective of the ownership of the land on which they are found. Residents of communities in the areas of exploration and mining development cannot claim ownership of mineral rights from existing mines in the country, and the Basarwa are no exception. The Government’s goal is to ensure that all the citizens have a common stake and enjoy common benefits from mineral revenues (Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, 2009).

The Department of Mines, in partnership with stakeholders, develops policy, legislation, and programs for mineral exploration, and provides administrative services. The Department works to prevent mining occupational diseases and injuries and to minimize degradation of the environment. The Department of Mines was reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act to ensure that mining license holders make adequate financial provision to fulfill the environmental obligation of rehabilitating the mines at the end of mine life (Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, 2009).

Minerals in the National Economy

In 2009, Botswana’s mineral resource sector, which was the sector that was the most sensitive to financial shock, was negatively affected by international credit crunch. Exploitation of Botswana’s rich mineral reserves, especially diamond, has been a significant driver of the country’s economy. Although the country remained a leading producer of diamond (by value) and the world’s third ranked producer of diamond (in terms of volume) after the Democratic Republic of the Congo [Congo (Kinshasa)] and Australia, it saw diamond production drop to 17.7 million carats in 2009 from 32.6 million carats in 2008. Diamond sales declined to $1.7 billion in 2009 from $2.8 billion in 2008 (Israeli Diamond Industry, 2010).


With the exception of copper, diamond, and gold production, the mineral sector was not affected in a major way by the global economic downturn. Tati Nickel Mining Co. (Pty.) Ltd. (a subsidiary of OJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel of Russia) produced 28,595 metric tons (t) of nickel, 23,146 t of copper, and 330 t of cobalt from its nickel-copper matte. Bamangwato Concessions Ltd. (BCL) of Botswana processed copper-nickel concentrate from its Selebi-Phikwe Mines. Also, BCL toll-smelted concentrate from Tati Nickel’s Phoenix open pit mine. IAMGOLD Corp. produced 1,530 kilograms (kg) of gold in 2009 compared with 3,176 kg in 2008.

In 2009, there was a significant decrease in diamond production. Almost all the country’s rough-diamond output was by Debswana Diamond Co. (Pty) Ltd. (Debswana), which was a 50-50 joint venture of the De Beers Group of South Africa and the Government. Production of semiprecious stones totaled about 30,000 kg. The semiprecious stones were mainly varieties of agate and carnelian, and production was not reported separately. Botswana Ash (Pty.) Ltd. produced salt and soda ash. Soda ash production was more or less the same as in 2008 and had a significant though small role in the national economy. In 2009, companies extracted clay, crushed stone, gravel, and sand from different areas of the country. Production of these industrial materials depended on consumption by the construction industry. Coal production in 2009 was about the same as in 2008 (Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, 2009).

Structure of the Mineral Industry

Although the Government maintained an equity position in most of the major mining companies, the mineral industry operated mainly on a privately owned free-market basis. In addition to these major operations, a number of medium- and small-scale mines produced agates, aggregates, clay, and dimension stone.

Source: United States Geological Survey