A Mining Centre (MC) has been set up by Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) in an attempt to improve appropriate skills to ensure easy industrial absorption for graduate mining students and also to provide services to the local mining sector.
The goal of the BIUST MC is to bridge the gaps in the academic teaching of applied mining and related sciences and the mining industry’s professional needs.
A mining engineer, Dr Bonny Matshediso, with a wealth of experience in the mines, civil service and academia heads the centre. The BIUST MC is housed at the Palapye based university’s Faculty of Engineering and Technology.
The aim of the mining centre established in August this year is to address all elements of the mining industry value chain from mining, processing, economic, marketing to financials.
It envisions providing practical educational opportunities for students and industry professionals, coaching opportunities in the area of mining project business development, critical mid and high-level skills training and industry vetted short courses.
The centre would also be providing consulting and business evaluation services to industry, applied research development and demonstration capacity through partnered projects, amongst others.
Dr Matshediso said the centre would be focused on the professional development of what the mining industry needs, as determined by the industry focusing on “market intelligence” to determine skills gaps in the sector.
“The materials and topics presented and practical training offered should therefore be driven by the industry through engagement, and not determined by academia through a push mechanism,” he said.
He added that BIUST MC would ensure it stays abreast of the national mining industry skills inventory as well as critical skills required by the industry through engagement with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the university MC produces relevant industry skills.
The bulk of our courses at BIUST MC will take the form of short courses presented by the industry specialists leading to Diploma qualifications and post-graduate degrees, he noted.
“The model has been successfully applied at several respected universities regionally and internationally.”
He reckoned the future of the mining expansion would be private-sector driven with the government facilitating through policy development and participating through Mineral Development Company Botswana (MBCD).
He said it is, therefore, the private sector’s response to skills and technology development that would drive the BIUST MC product offerings, in support of the government’s mining development, environmental, social and governance, and goals.
“The centre would be placed to offer a professional service centre that acts in the same capacity as a consulting engineering firm. Initially, this would be through contracting of professional associates skilled in all the requisite aspects of projects on an ad hoc basis,” the mining engineer said.
He said for an initial feasibility study and due diligence type offerings the professionals would be contracted to perform the work and have BIUST MC students and staff shadow them, in the process be coached in the consulting business.
At the appropriate time when BIUST MC has developed sufficient internal capacity through its students and staff, the professional associates would be phased out into oversight roles and ultimately released.
“In this manner, it is planned that the necessary project development and entrepreneurial skills required for local project development will be unleashed into the economy,” he said.
Through the process, the MC would achieve its mission of capacitating Botswana with sufficient technology and skills in mining to ensure the national interest was met to maximum, and value of the country’s mineral wealth is realised to the benefit of the people.
The BIUST MC strategy would be developed into a three-term plan of five years as a short term plan, five to 10 years as a medium-term and 10-years and beyond as the long term plan.