Motheo copper mine: Opening A New Front In Botswana's Copper Belt  

As copper increasingly becomes a much-wanted resource across global industry, exciting times are emerging from the Kalahari Copper Belt in Botswana where Australian company, Sandfire, has officially opened the Motheo Copper Mine.
Over its initial ten-year life, Motheo is expected to deliver significant value to the people of Botswana through taxes and royalties, and long-term employment, training and development opportunities.
The first copper concentrate was produced in May 2023, and Sandfire expects a swift ramp-up in throughput towards the initial processing rate of 3.2 tonnes per annum. Copper recoveries are now running at around 90%, the company stated.

The Motheo Copper Project is an open-pit mine being developed 80km northeast of Ghanzi in Western Botswana. Sandfire is developing two components: the T3 deposit in the Kalahari Copper Belt and the potential development of expansion, with the A4 deposit. 
The T3 deposit is a sediment-hosted copper and silver deposit comprising the basal volcanic lithofacies of the Kgwebe Formation, overlain by siliciclastic sedimentary lithofacies of the Ghanzi Group. The T3 deposit has a strike length of 2km and a down-dip extension of 720m.
A feasibility study on the potential of open-pit mining was completed in 2020, and the Botswana government granted a mining licence in mid-2021. Full-scale construction generated around 1,000 jobs, while mine production will support around 600 full-time jobs. Proven and probable mineral reserves at Motheo were estimated at 39.9 million tonnes (mt), grading 0.90% copper and 12.2g/t silver in December 2020.
By May 2023, the first copper concentrate was produced at T3. First-phase production is expected to hit about 3.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity.
The project will involve conventional open-pit mining operations using the truck and shovel (excavator) method. The open-pit copper mine was developed in four stages using Whittle mine planning software. With a central processing facility, Motheo produces high-quality copper concentrate that is transported by truck to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for shipping to smelters.
In May 2023, Sandfire received Government approval for the A4 project. Approval is vital for granting a mining licence and will become a backbone for Motheo's expansion when the production rate increases to 50,000tpa in 2025.
The expansion will involve increasing plant production from 3.2mtpa to 5.2mtpa. The total development capital for the mine is estimated at $397.4m, which includes future development costs for the A4 deposit and the plant expansion, as well as the development costs for the initial 3.2mtpa operation.
Among associated construction initiatives to support the project will be a 22MW photovoltaic (PV) plant and a battery energy storage system in the advanced planning stage. The PV plant is expected to meet up to 34% of the project's energy requirements, while reducing its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 475,000t over the life of the mine.

The Official Opening
The opening of the Motheo copper mine was marked by an official ceremony undertaken by His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana.

The ceremony was held onsite, with guests including representatives of the local community, central Government, Sandfire staff, contracting partners, and suppliers.
Sandfire Managing Director and CEO Brendan Harris said: "The official opening ceremony marks an important milestone for Sandfire and provides an opportunity to acknowledge the community, our people and the many contractors who have contributed to the timely and safe development of our newest operation.
"Our visit to Motheo also reminds us of the spirit of optimism that forms the backbone of our Botswanan team, and we couldn't be prouder of their dedication, effort and drive to continuously improve as we seek to establish Sandfire as a sustainable, international miner and copper producer of significance."
He added: "As we sharpen our exploration focus on near mine targets, we see significant potential to extend the life of Motheo and be a contributor to the local economy for decades."

Suppliers and contractors
Sandfire has been supported in its aims to ensure the Motheo Copper Project is progressing on time by several partners.
Caterpillar and Barloworld Equipment, a dealer for the Cat® construction, mining and industrial machine range, were selected to provide technology solutions. Selected technology solutions include MineStar Edge, Health – Equipment insights, and Cat Driver Safety System.

Pindulo Logistics is a leading provider of supply chain solutions, renowned for its innovative and client-focused approach. Pindulo has played a pivotal role in facilitating Motheo's export operations, successfully transporting over 50,000 tonnes of copper concentrate. This impressive feat spanned more than 4 million kilometers, all accomplished using side tippers. Notably, Pindulo achieved a remarkable 350% increase in traditional loading speeds, showcasing its commitment to efficiency and excellence in logistics
MineStar Edge is a cloud-based equipment management and production recording technology platform that provides visibility to all aspects of the mining operation.
Health – Equipment insights is a dynamic data visualization and reporting tool that helps convert insights into action. It allows sites to easily access, view and analyze information related to machine health and enables operators to increase machine availability, reduce unplanned downtime, and avoid costly failures.

Lycopodium undertook the feasibility study, which also included a survey of the processing plant engineering and associated infrastructure. It was also supported by Knight Piésold, Orelogy Consulting, AQ2, John Wood Group, and LOCI Environmental (Botswana).
Barloworld delivered 20 139t Cat 785 Trucks, two 777 Water Trucks, four D10T Dozers, and two 18 Motor Graders for the project.
Global mining services group Perenti Global's subsidiary African Mining Services (AMS) was awarded a $496m contract in June 2021 to provide open-pit mining services for the Motheo copper project. AMS was also awarded a $235 million 73-month contract to deliver all surface mining services associated with development and production activities at the A4 open pit.

Supporting Communities
Sandfire is dedicated to delivering lasting positive change in the communities in which it operates, and the Motheo Project is no different. It provides jobs and business opportunities, pays taxes and royalties, develops local suppliers and supports local communities.
Its commitment in Botswana centres on working with identified community stakeholders in the villages of Kuke, D' Kar, Qabo, Grootlaagte, Hanahai, and Ghanzi Town. There are four pillars within its Motheo Community Framework: community health, education, women empowerment and youth development.
The Motheo Social Club is a community group founded by Sandfire. The club provides another forum for it to work with local stakeholders to identify opportunities to support local initiatives.
Recently, the Social Club collaborated with the Kole Village and the Western Masters Social Club to officiate the Kole Village donation ceremony, during which educational material and resources were donated to the local Kole Village Primary School by the Western Masters Social Club.
The materials donated included hampers, chairs, garden tools and school bags. This collaboration forms part of Motheo's commitment to improving educational outcomes for children within the region.

It recently hosted an annual Health and Wellness Day for its Motheo employees. The event, themed 'O shapo' (You Okay), commenced with aerobics sessions led by a local professional trainer. This was then followed by education talks on several topics, including financial literacy, prevention and support for gender-based violence, and the importance of regular screening for the detection of potential health disorders in people who do not have any symptoms.
Sandfire, in collaboration with Mighty Infinite Services, has also donated 100 school bags and 100 school shoes to students at D'Kar Primary School in Botswana. Mighty Infinite Services is Sandfire's Motheo Mine Village contractor that provides services to the village. 
General Manager of Mighty Infinite Services, Babatsi Munyadzwe, presented the materials to the school and said, "Education is very important for every child, and we are going to keep working towards ensuring that we make a positive impact in the lives of the children."

Sandfire also supports the Sandfire Youth Development Program (YDP), which provides training and employment opportunities to youth in local communities. The program represents Sandfire's commitment to its "Youth Development" pillar and supports the Ghanzi District in reducing its high unemployment rate within the region.

Each intake of the YDP occurs on a six-monthly basis and offers three youths the opportunity to work within Exploration, Lab, SHE, or Procurement for 12 months, with the potential to grow into a permanent opportunity with Sandfire.

Mining potential

The Motheo Copper Mine, and its expansion, offer an excellent opportunity for Botswana to enhance its formidable reputation within the high-quality copper industry on a global scale. While Sandfire’s reputation can only be enhanced further, the people on the ground in the local communities around the Kalahari Copper Belt will undoubtedly gain as well on all fronts, in terms of health, empowerment and economic security.