Windhoek – Namibia is positioning itself to become the mining hub of the continent on the back of improving commodity markets, an increase in the number of projects and discovery of new minerals.
Interest in the sector is at an all-time high, as several new players have entered the scene targeting a larger array of minerals.
According to the Chamber of Mines of Namibia (CMN), this is expected to widen opportunities for investment and job creation in the Southern African country of some 2.5 million people.
In 2017, Namibia Rare Earths acquired a host of portfolio high-tech commodities, which include heavy rare earths, cobalt, copper, graphite, lithium, nickel, niobium, tantalum and zinc.
These projects vary from Greenfield projects to projects in the licence application stage.
Among these are the Lofdal Rare Earths deposit, which contains one of the few meaningful and known resources of heavy rare earths worldwide.
“Prices of heavy rare earths are expected to increase significantly in the short-term. However, development of this project is pending mining licence approval,” said CMN president Johan Coetzee, while recently launching the Mining Industry Review for 2017.
Namibia is also edging closer to producing cobalt after the discovery of large-scale deposits of cobalt in north-western Kunene region.
Australian miner, Celsius Resources plans to start mining the metal at its Opuwo Project in 2020, after acquiring 95 percent interest in the project from Gecko.
Coetzee said results from Gecko’s project have also been promising, confirming sediment-hosted copper-cobalt mineralization over 15 km of strike.
North River Resources was also granted a mining licence in May 2017 for their Namib lead and zinc mine near Swakopmund.
Production is expected to commence in early 2019.
Craton Mining was also granted a mining license for its Omitiomire copper project northeast of the capital Windhoek.
Weatherly International has announced its intention to revive the Otjihase and Matchless copper mines that have been in project development status since 2015.
“The start-up plan is being developed at Otjihase mine with a strong focus on training and skills development, to secure the necessary human capital for when full operations commence. A similar approach is being considered for the Matchless mine,” Coetzee explained.
At the Etango uranium project, Bannerman’s Heap Leach Demonstration Plant commissioned in 2015, has recorded positive results.
Coetzee noted that the optimization study, completed in 2017, showed estimated capital costs could potentially be reduced by US$73 million. It positions Bannerman favourably when market conditions improve.
The future of diamond mining in Namibia is increasingly being focused on off-shore resources, after Debmarine Namibia’s new R2.3 billion exploration and sampling vessel, the mv SS Nujoma, which was officially inaugurated at the port of Walvis Bay last June.
In overall, the mining sector last year generated R29 billion in revenue.
CMN chief executive, Veston Malango, said other new developments in the sector include Skorpion Zinc embarking on a push back programme at its Rosh Pinah mine in 2017.
This would enable it to access deeper oxide ore and extend the life of the mine to 2020.
Desert Lion has commenced production at its lithium operations outside Karibib. The African Tantalum mine in the //Kharas Region entered production in 2017, while Namib Lead and Zinc is preparing for production in January 2019.
Okandjande Graphite mine, south of Otjiwarongo as entered production last April.
Tom Alweendo, Mines and Energy Minister, called for value addition to the minerals in order for Namibia to make the most of its resources.
“The mining industry still has a big role to play to ensure true manufacturing of intermediary and semi-finished products,” Minister Alweendo during the launch of the Mining Expo on Wednesday.
“Government concern is the export of natural resources without adding value and I have already expressed myself that I intend to take up this matter as priority number one,” he added.
The annual Namibia Mining Expo and Conference concluded on Thursday at the Windhoek Showgrounds under the theme “Maximising the Multiplier Effect from Namibia’s Mining Sector.”
Mining is the biggest contributor to Namibia’s economy in terms of revenue. It accounts for 25 percent of the country’s income. – CAJ News