Morupule Coal Mine – Mining for Today’s Botswana
Morupule Coal Mine was established in 1973, and has continued to grow and evolve to meet today’s challenges.
Morupule Coal Mine was established in Botswana in 1973 to mine coal as a source of energy for the country. Even today, coal production is contributing to the country’s economy as its main source of energy.
The mine is owned by a government-owned entity, the Mineral Development Company Botswana, and its vision is to be a leading coal energy business.
“Our mission for the coal mine is to ensure we mine coal and deliver energy for the benefit of all our stakeholders in a sustainable manner,” says Edwin Elias, General Manager of Morupule Coal Mine. “To support that we have a set of values; Safety, Passion, caring, Growth, Working Together and Excellence. We have developed a Value Statement saying what we are passionate about safety as we work together in a caring environment, growing our business into a centre of excellence.”
To do this, Morupule Coal Mine has gone out of its way to take the lead on technology acquisition and deployment.
“We look at the challenges within the coal business and what is important for us is we need to produce in a sustainable manner,” Elias explains. “When it comes to the latest technology, in terms of mining we are looking at opportunities to ensure we get the latest tools to mine coal efficiently and safely.”
Investing in Community
As well as investing in technology Morupule Coal Mine also invests heavily in the local community.
“What also distinguishes us is the difference we make in the communities where we mine the coal. We build strong relationships with the community,” Elias tells us.
This means building strong channels for communication with those communities.
“We go out to speak to people and find out about their aspirations, then support the development of initiatives around the community,” Elias says. “We have made investments in education and community development.”
This means more than charity, it is about empowering local businesses to the point where they are able to meet Morupule Coal Mine’s own needs, allowing those businesses to benefit from the mine and creating a virtuous circle.
“We look at ensuring we empower the local business community to harness opportunities through the coal mine, allowing us to support local businesses in providing the products and services that we need,” Elias tells us. “At the same time, we’re ensuring we can support our own business through local procurement.”
This is part of a wider view of how Morupule views its local communities and country. Through the Broad-Based Citizen Economic Empowerment program, the company has developed a framework to benchmark stakeholder engagement.
“We encourage contributions from the community and other organisations, and look at what functions we believe we need to have in place. We have built partnerships with banks to support the companies that will be working on these initiatives,” Elias explains. “The key thing for us is we have also identified products and services that are essentially earmarked for local procurement such as protective clothing, maintenance, transportation, things we believe should be done by local companies.
That approach is also reflected in Morupule Coal Mine’s hiring practices.
“When employing people at ground level, it doesn’t matter where in the country a candidate comes, from when we have an opportunity it is advertised and is competitive, every citizen can compete,” says Elias. “When it comes to professional positions, we look at skills from all over. We bring in ex-patriates when we don’t have skills locally, but if we employ an ex-pat we look at skills transfer. That has only happened at the highest level of skilled employee.”
A Time of Transition
Investing in the future of Botswana right now also means investing in the environment, and Elias is the first to point out that this is a time of soul searching for the coal industry.
“The biggest challenge that we face right now is the global position around coal mining. We are looking at the COP 26 Agreement in terms of what we can do, what we can provide, and our transformation into a more sustainable business,” he points out. “It is important we have a clear road map towards green energy. There are initiatives we’re looking into to ensure we comply with the requirements of the COP 26 Agreement. We are coming up with ways to accelerate towards the green energy business. This will make sure that at a global level we get the necessary support in terms of the kind of technologies we need and the initiatives that will help us to become more efficient in the move to green technology.”
Zero harm to the environment is a central belief for Morupule Coal Mine, and it endeavours to mine coal with minimal environmental impact. The company has been on a journey to build a resilient Environmental Management System, and within three years of beginning these efforts, the mine’s Environmental Management System has been ISO 14001 certified, a foundation for constant and continued improvement.
Through the Morupule Coal Mine, the company recognises the potential long-term effects of climate change and the impact it might have on its business and supply chain. The Mine has taken the initiative in improving the energy efficiency of its production processes and reduced the potential climate impact of its products. It is an approach that reflects Morupule Coal Mine’s integrated approach to sustainability, of which climate protection is a key component.
This is to be achieved while still building on and expanding the mine’s output.
“We are currently producing 2.8 million tons per annum of coal, but we are expanding our operations,” Elias tells us. “We plan to make sure we can upgrade our facility to a capacity of 4.2 million tons per annum.”