SANDSTONE mining, which has boomed in Lekokoaneng, Berea over the past few years, has the potential of significantly contributing to Lesotho’s economy.
This is the view of a player in the budding industry, Thabiso Mothabeng, who is the chief executive officer of Mountain Sandstone Mining.
Established in 2011, the company is a partnership between the Mothabeng family and a group of Lekokoaneng community members called Khalapa Lia Buseletsana. It is one of the three major sandstone mining companies in the country.
Mr Mothabeng told the Lesotho Times this past week he was convinced that, if Basotho would venture in the industry that produces a wide range of sandstone blocks ideal for building purposes, many jobs could be created to address the high levels of unemployment in the country.
“We seem to be a lazy nation which does not want to engage in any perceived complicated businesses that take time to realise profits,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t realise that by engaging in the primary production sector, we can address the challenge of high unemployment and poverty in the country as we create many job opportunities.”
Mr Mothabeng said the sector was especially suited for small-scale mining.
“Sandstone mining is not as complicated as it looks from appearances. It is more suited for small-scale mining by our own people. I believe it has the potential to turn the country’s economy around if we can handle it well,” he said.
“Apart from the local market, Lesotho’s sandstone products have a huge potential for being traded internationally. Although we don’t currently export our products, we receive a lot of inquiries from outside the country. There are some local mining companies already exporting the stone to the southern Africa region.”
Due to the large sedimentary rock deposits available in most parts of the country, Mr Mothabeng said sandstone mining had the potential to continue for the next 100 years.
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The businessman said their major challenge lay in the red tape associated with accessing various government services, adding that it was adversely impacting on the operations of the mining companies.
According to Ministry of Mining figures for 2015, there were three sandstone-mining companies in the production phase, while five were setting up for production.
For its part, the government, through the Minerals and Mining Policy, plans to transform the artisanal and small-scale sub sector from its perceived negative effects on the environment to providing value addition and poverty reduction.