...As BCL Liquidator disregards safety measures

Lives were endangered at the Selibe shaft mine as employees of the BCL mine left four of the Premium Nickel Resource Botswana (PNRB) miners stranded 900 metres underground.

Botswana Guardian has it in good authority that what started off as a simple business transaction turned sour. It is alleged that the Liquidator’s staff disregarded all safety measures and decided to leave PNR staff that had come to assist them to man underground pumping stations knowing well that they had no means to get out.

The Liquidator's staff had come to collect their remaining assets, one of them a land cruiser, on that day and the agreement was reached to be escorted to remove their assets on the PNR site.

Underground vehicles are fitted with protection on both the roof and on the sides, as well as bumper specifications such as steel bars both on the roof.

It is said that last Friday PNR management met with their counterparts and agreed with the Liquidator’s request to enter Selebi mine in order to collect movable assets to the Phikwe site.

PNR released four of its employees to go with them underground to collect the agreed items such as gas bottles and welding machines.

The agreement was that since the mine Winder has been out of order for some time and it will cost close to P1 billion to repair – the liquidator will have to bring up the PNR pumping crew at 900 metre level pumping station on their last trip as PNR does not have special design vehicles to go underground.

It is alleged that the Liquidator’s staff did not report their decision to PNR management, who got to know at the end of business at 1700hrs that their four employees were still on the 900m level manning the pump station.

With the winder not working, and no proper vehicle to go underground, they were left with no alternatives but to take calculated risk to save the four lives. They had to use their Toyota GD6 that was still being modified to evacuate the crew later in the evening around 1900hrs.

What shocked Phikwe residents is that this was a dangerous occurrence as the crew had no means to evacuate and get medical help had it been required.

“The BCL people were reckless and put other people’s lives at risk,” one observer said speaking on condition of anonymity.

Residents were shocked that the Liquidator is comfortably sitting with nine land cruisers but has allegedly been reluctant to a PNR request for a short term rental of the three that were originally based in units at Selebi and Selebi North. Further, despite having the means, currently PNR cannot buy its own land cruisers since they are in short supply in the market following the Durban, South Africa floods that affected the factory.

Meanwhile, some South Africans were this week arrested by law enforcement for infringing the labour laws and working in the mine without both residents and work permits.

Botswana Guardian has reliably learnt that two or more of these officers have been working without proper documentation since April 2021. This they were doing allegedly to continue working in the country as several of their attempts to apply for permits were turned down.

Some of them were directed by the former Chief Registrar and High Court Master, now Judge, Michael Mothabi not to work for BCL or to make any management decisions on its behalf.

One of them Mark Richard McNally, a South African national was arrested and charged P2000 this week. Botswana Guardian is an possession of a memorandum dated 20 April, 2021 written by Mothabi directing that Richard Mark McNally should stop working for BCL and making any decisions on their behalf.

Interestingly, the Liquidator disregarded this and continued engaging his services at the taxpayer’s cost. McNally is not the only one. At the time of going to print, the law enforcement organs were still chasing after others whose names are known to this publication. Some of these employees were retired and are over the age limit permitted by law for one to be engaging in such work.

Speaking to Botswana Guardian, Officer Commanding No. 10 District Selibe Phikwe, Senior Superintendent Meshack Pulenyane confirmed they visited the BCL offices and arrested a BCL employee named Mark Richard McNally who is a South African national.

“We arrested and charged him P2000 for working without work permits. McNally was charged subsequent to admitting the offence committed,” he said.

Pulenyane said upon arrest they realised that he had been in the country since August 2022 when he was given 21 days.

“He was found to be working at the BCL mine and he confessed to be working with the Liquidator. He said his application for permits was not granted. I can also confirm that we are still looking for others.”

All efforts to get a comment from the BCL Liquidator Trevor Glaum were not successful.