Michael Tome Business Reporter
BINDURA Nickel Corporation (BNC) says it is lobbying for the increase of foreign currency retention of up to 80 percent citing inadequacy of the foreign currency as substantial amount of money is being directed towards dedicated power imports from South Africa.
The revelation was made during the Bindura Nickel Mine tour recently where the company indicated that it was spending a substantial amount of foreign currency on direct power imports from Eskom in order to alleviate power outages currently obtaining in the country and improve the mine’s uptime.
Consequently, the nickel producing concern cited the 50 percent they are currently retaining as minute to meet the overall foreign currency requirements for the mine given what is consumed by power imports thereby pleading with Government to consider upward revision of foreign currency retention by the nickel miner.
The company also highlighted that it had reached an arrangement to remunerate its skilled workforce in foreign currency so as to retain expertise and avoid skills flight.
Bindura Nickel Corporation managing director Batirai Manhando told Business Weekly in an interview that his firm was anticipating an upward review of above 80 percent in order to meet their foreign currency demands.
“We actually prepaid power from South Africa for us to guarantee constant supply and this has constrained US dollars that are available for other operations and the 50 percent retention is clearly inadequate. We have lobbied the Government to say, can you increase what we retain, I think Government is still looking at that and we are looking at retention northwards of 80 percent for us to remain viable.
“And since we started there has been a steady supply of power. Fine we get loading shedding here and there but by and large we are getting better supply of power,” said Manhando.
BNC is one of selected companies that have resorted to power imports to deal with the obtaining power outages.
The firm, whose 75 percent shareholding was acquired by Sotic International, hinted on moving towards powering the mining operation with solar power in the near future saying it had already consulted companies on the feasibility.
Without smelter operations the firm uses an average of 15 megawatts per day, power consumption BNC expects to triple when the smelter operations kick in.
“We have plans to go solar, we are consulting a lot of companies at the moment to tender supply of solar power and also the funding modalities.
“We intend to have a solar plant that can power the entire mine especially during the day and create enough battery capacity to support evening operations.
“The guys we are talking to right now are talking of 45 MW facility and with current operations we are using 15 megawatts but when smelter begins operations we will reach 45 megawatts,” he said.
BNC is currently producing an average of 500 tonnes per month and is hopeful the commodity price will be on an upward trajectory in years to come especially if the traction about electric vehicle continue to gain momentum.