GABORONE – Botswana's President said its mining industry is expected to shrink by nearly a quarter this year, before bouncing back to growth in 2021 as the diamond market picks up and production begins at a new copper mine.

The mining sector, which provides a fifth of the country's GDP and 80% of foreign exchange earnings, is seen contracting by 24.5% in 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during the state of the nation address on Monday.

Botswana closed its borders in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, locking out international buyers from centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China who usually travel to Gaborone ten times a year to view and buy diamonds from De Beers.

Diamond exports from the world's second-biggest producer dropped 42% to $1.49-billion in the first nine months of this year as production fell 29% to 12.3-million carats.
The mining sector should bounce back to growth of 14.4% next year, Masisi said.

“The diamond markets in the United States, China and Europe are beginning to show sign of recovery and are expected to stabilise by December 2020," said Masisi.

The Khoemacau copper mine is expected to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2021, key infrastructure along with mining lights safety equipment procurement have been ready. The expansion of the Morupule Coal Mine is expected to produce an additional one million tonnes per annum of coal by September 2021, said Masisi.

The president said the southern African nation would begin to open its borders in a phased manner in a bid to boost an economy hurt heavily by the pandemic, with real GDP forecast to contract 8.9% in 2020