Mining in Namibia
Mining is the biggest contributor to Namibia's economy in terms of revenue. It accounts for 25% of the country's income. Its contribution to the gross domestic product (10.4% in 2009, 8.5% in 2010, 9.5% in 2011, 12.3% in 2012, 13.2% in 2013, 11.6% in 2014) is also very important and makes it one of the largest economic sectors of the country. The majority of revenue (7.2% of GDP in 2011) comes from diamond mining.
In 2006, manganese, diamond, and fluorspar output increased by 158%, 24%, and 15%, respectively, compared with that of 2005, and copper, lead, wollastonite, and zinc posted significant production declines. The increase in manganese was attributable to the expansion of production at the reopened Purity Mine (formerly the Otjisondu Mine). The decline in copper output could be attributed in part to instability during the transition of ownership of Ongopolo Mining and Processing Ltd. Lead and zinc output declined in part because of a short strike by workers at the Rosh Pinah mine.
Depending on economic up and downswings, mining provided for around 6,000 to 8,000 direct jobs between 2007 and 2014. The artisans for the industry are educated in the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) in Arandis, Keetmanshoop, and Tsumeb, as well as at University of Namibia (UNAM)'s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology in Ongwediva. Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST)'s Faculty of Engineering in Windhoek also provides mining education.
Structure of the Mineral Industry
The Government encourages private sector exploration and development according to guidelines set out in its 2003 paper entitled “The Mineral Policy of Namibia.” The Ministry of Mines and Energy and its Diamond Affairs, Energy, and Mining Directorates regulate Namibia’s mining and petroleum industries, and the Ministry concerns itself with the provision of national exploration and mining databases and competitive exploration and mining policy and regulations. The Ministry of Trade and Industry is responsible for regulating manufacturing activity, which includes mineral beneficiation, the production of cement, and the processing of semiprecious stones; the Ministry also promotes resource-based development.
Epangelo Mining is a mining company owned by the government. It was founded in 2009 with the aim to govern the rights on six mineral resources that are deemed strategic for Namibia, and for which new exploration rights must be held by government. The six resources are: diamonds, gold, coal, uranium, copper, and rare earth minerals.
The larger mining operations in Namibia tended to be funded and operated by domestic and international investors. Numerous local operations were involved in smaller-scale industrial mineral production, especially the semiprecious gemstone sector.
In 2006, Weatherly International plc of the United Kingdom agreed to acquire 56% interest in financially distressed Ongopolo; Weatherly subsequently increased its equity interest in the company to 100%. Ongopolo operated the Kombat, the Matchless, and the Otjihase Mines. Ongopolo suspended operations at the Tsumeb copper smelter in mid-2006, relined the 30,000-metric-ton-per-year (t/yr)-capacity reverberatory furnace, and reopened the smelter in August. A second reverberatory furnace at Tsumeb remained inactive, pending renovation.
Ongopolo evaluated the development of an underground mine at the Tschudi copper-silver prospect. Other copper exploration activity in Namibia included that of Copper Resources Corp. of South Africa on the Haib project, Helio Resource Corp. of Canada on the Honib prospect, Teck Cominco Ltd. of Canada on the Kaoko project, and Yale Resources Ltd. of Canada on the Leicester prospect.
Companies that explored for gold in 2006 included Forsys Metals Corp. of Canada on the Ondundu prospect, Teal Exploration & Mining Inc. of Canada on the Otjikoto prospect, and Teck Cominco on the Vredelus prospect. Yale Resources worked on the Makuru (also known as the Otjimakuru) project. As of 2010[update], the only operational gold mine in Namibia is the Navachab Gold Mine. Now new company called Auryx Gold Namibia was formed and exploring the Otjikoto Gold deposit
Lead and Zinc
Contributing to the decline in Namibian zinc output in 2006 was the nearly 3-week fire-related suspension of zinc metal production operations at the Skorpion zinc facility and a strike at the Rosh Pinah Mine for higher wages, which lasted for about 2 weeks and adversely affected lead and zinc concentrate production. Kumba Resources Ltd. of South Africa proposed to reduce its 89.5% equity interest in Rosh Pinah to about 50%. A local investor group, which included PE Minerals (Namibia) (Pty.) Ltd., was expected to acquire Kumba’s divested interest.
Cement had been imported since the closure of the Otjiwarongo factory of African Portland Cement several years ago. Holcim (Namibia) (Pty.) Ltd., which was owned by Holcim S.A. of Switzerland, 54%, and the Aveng Group of South Africa, 46% (and known as Alpha Cement prior to 2004), imported about 25,000 metric tons per month of cement to meet local demand.
In 2005, Cheetah Cement Factory, which was a joint venture of Whale Rock Cement of Namibia and CP Cimento e Participacoes S.A. of Brazil, proposed to import cement from Brazil until a 500,000-t/yr-capacity cement plant near Otjiwarongo was built. In late 2005, Cheetah Cement imported 36,000 metric tons (t) of cement from Brazil, but most of the cement was lost when Cheetah Cement’s warehouse was flooded in early 2006. As a result, planning for the construction of the new cement factory was suspended.
Diamond remained the most economically significant mineral commodity produced by the mining industry of Namibia. The country produced about 2% of the world’s gem-quality diamonds, which placed it as the eighth-ranked producer of gem diamond in terms of value.[when?] Diamonds contributed N$2,5 billion (US$235 million) in revenue to the government in 2013.
Namdeb Diamond Corp. (Pty.) Ltd., which was a joint venture between De Beers Centenary AG and the Namibian Government, with each having 50%, was the country’s leading diamond producer. During 2006, Namdeb, its contractors, and its subsidiaries produced more than 2,000,000 carats (400 kg). The partners also negotiated the Namdeb Sales Agreement in 2006, which created the Namibia Diamond Trading Co., to sort and value the volume of Namdeb’s production that would be marketed to the domestic diamond-cutting industry.
Offshore petroleum activity included exploration on Block 1711 by the joint venture of Z.A.O. Sintezneftegas of Russia (70%), Petroleum, Oil & Gas Corp. of South Africa (PetroSA) (10%), EnerGulf Resources Inc. of the United States (10%), and the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR) (7%). Onshore exploration included that of the joint venture of Circle Oil Namibia Ltd. (90%) and NAMCOR (10%). In 2006, Mitusi Atlantic Energy BV (15%) joined the joint venture of BHP Billiton Ltd. of Australia (75%) and PetroSA (10%), which held Blocks 2813A, 2814B, and 2914.
Namibia, was the sixth ranked producer of uranium, producing about 8% of the world’s uranium in 2006. Due to the opening of the Langer Heinrich Uranium (LHU) mine in 2007, the country in 2009 had raised its share to nearly 10%, but when Uranium prices fell after the Fukushima incident production was reduced. In 2012, Namibia produced 7.1% of Uranium oxide, behind Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, and Niger.
Rössing Uranium Ltd. processed about 12 million metric tons of ore in 2006 and produced 3,617 t of U3O8. Production was exported to the Asia and the Pacific, the European, and the North American markets by Rio Tinto Uranium; Rössing shareholders had no offtake rights.
Earlier this decade, Rössing had announced that the Rössing Mine would be closed in 2009. By 2005, the increase in the world market price of uranium allowed Rössing to plan to extend operations to 2016. In 2006, positive exploration results and continued favorable uranium market conditions allowed Rössing to propose that the mine’s life could be extended to 2021.
In late 2006, Paladin Resources Ltd. commissioned the Langer Heinrich uranium (LHU) mine and oxide (U3O8, or yellowcake) plant. LHU produced 1 170 tonnes of processed uranium called yellow cake in 2009.
Exploration activity and evaluation of uranium mineralization in Namibia in 2006 included that of Bannerman Resources Ltd. of Australia on the Goanikontes and Swakop River prospects, Extract Resources Ltd. of Australia on the Husab Uranium Project, Forsys Metals on the Valencia project, Metals Australia Ltd. of Australia (formerly Australian United Gold Ltd.) on the Engo Valley and Mile 72 projects, Rössing Uranium on the SH and SK anomalies on Rössing’s mining lease near Arandis, UranMin Inc. on the Trekkopje deposit, and Western Australian Metals Ltd. of Australia on the Marinica project. In early 2006, Xemplar Energy Corp. of Canada acquired Namura Minerals Resources (Pty.) Ltd., which held the Aus, the Cape Cross, and the Warmbad uranium projects. Namura subsequently acquired a reconnaissance license in the Engo Valley area.
Several towns and settlements in Namibia were established solely for mining. Some of them are today ghost towns, and some are in danger of becoming one due to a lack of diversification of economic activities. The major mining towns in Namibia are:
- Arandis was established in 1978 for the workers of the Rössing uranium mine and until 1992 administered by its owner, Rössing Uranium Limited. The settlement was then handed over to the newly established Government of Namibia, and gained 'town' status in 1994. Arandis is close to three of Namibia's biggest mines: Rössing uranium, Husab Mine, and Trekkopje mine, all of which extract uranium. It is also the home of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology.
- Karibib is close to the Navachab Gold Mine, by far the largest employer in town. It is also strategically situated for road and rail transport; 1,000 trucks pass the town per day.
- Otjiwarongo services the B2Gold mine which is the largest employer in the Otjozondjupa region. There is also the Okorusu fluorspar mine 48 kilometres (30 mi) north of the town. Mining overall constitutes 20% of the town's economy.
- Oranjemund was established in 1928 when rich alluvial diamond deposits were discovered north of the Orange River. Industrial diamond mining started in 1935 by the diamond mining company Consolidated Diamond Mines (today Namdeb). Houses for workers were erected in 1936. Oranjemund was privately owned, run and subsidised by the mining company and had no political leadership. The first mayor was elected in 2015 after the settlement was handed over to the Government of Namibia and declared a town in 2011. The entire area along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean had been proclaimed restricted (the Sperrgebiet) in 1908 due to the occurrence of alluvial diamonds. Since then the public was forbidden to enter it, and Oranjemund itself was accessible only for mine workers and their families. Entrance to town required an invitation from within, and crossing the border from South Africa required prior application. Only in 2017 was the town opened to the general public.
- Rosh Pinah is home to, and entirely dependent on, two mines, both mainly extracting zinc and lead. The Rosh Pinah mine was established in 1969 and has since then been in continuous operation. Skorpion Zinc opened in 2001 and is the eigth-largest zinc mine in the world. It employs 1,900 people.
- Uis was established in 1958 as workers' settlement to exploit local tin deposits. Mining started in 1960 and grew to be the world's largest open cast tin mine. Yield was very low, and the mine was sustainable only because South Africa was economically isolated due to its apartheid politics. When sanctions were lifted in 1990, the Uis mine was no longer viable. In the 2010s investments and work started again at the old mine.
- Rössing uranium mine in Arandis
- Rosh Pinah mine, zinc and lead mine in Rosh Pinah
- Navachab Gold Mine near Karibib
- Skorpion Zinc mine in Rosh Pinah
- Okorusu Mine, fluorspar mine near Otjiwarongo
- Langer Heinrich Mine uranium mine near Swakopmund
- Husab Mine, uranium mine near Arandis
- B2Gold mine, an open-pit gold mine established in 2014 and owned by B2Gold. It is located approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) northwest of Otjiwarongo and 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Otavi within the Otjozondjupa region.
Namibia’s mining industry is regulated by the Diamond Act, 1999; the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act, 1992; and the Minerals Development Fund of Namibia Act of 1996. The petroleum sector is governed by the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 1991; the Petroleum (Taxation) Act, 1991; the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Amendment Act, 1993; the Petroleum Laws Amendment Act, 1998; the Model Petroleum Agreement, 1998; and the Petroleum Products and Energy Amendment Act, 2000.
In 2006, the Government confirmed a royalty schedule that originally had been introduced in 2004. A 3% royalty was levied on the market value of base, precious, and rare metals and nonnuclear mineral fuels. A 2% royalty was levied on industrial minerals and nuclear mineral fuels.
The long tradition of mining in Namibia has been renewed with the reopening of the Tsumeb-area copper mines and smelter, the opening of the Skorpion zinc project, the expansion of the fluorspar and the gold mines, and continued offshore diamond development of the past few years. Extensive exploration in Namibia for base metals, diamond, gold, natural gas, and uranium has been attributed, in part, to the rise in world commodity prices. Potentially new mine development and new value-added gemstone cutting and polishing, metal-processing, and other mineral-based manufacturing industries could maintain the mineral sector’s position as a significant segment of the economy of Namibia for the foreseeable future.
With a climate that is among the driest in the world, the lack of water resources will continue to be a constraint on mineral development in Namibia, as will the availability of fuel and electric power. New investment to develop the country’s natural gas resources and harness the hydroelectric power potential, and the recently proposed (2006) introduction of nuclear-powered electricity-generating plants, will influence the future economic growth of Namibia. The expansion of regional transportation infrastructure in northern Namibia could see the Port of Walvis Bay become an alternative route for mineral exports from southeastern Angola, Botswana, and Zambia.
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