Mining Sector Looking Up


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK With most mining companies across the world having benefited from the blossoming Chinese economy leading to improved mineral prices, some local mining businesses have also shown positive results in their operations for the year 2005. The RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing uranium mine has since last year been moving from the survival mode to a period of growth and expansion. With an amount of N$700 million allocated for mine expansion, President of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia Mark Dawe said last Friday that the mine’s life has been extended from 2009 to at least 2016. About half of the allocated amount will be channelled towards equipment and improved mining tonnages with the rest going to the refurbishment of the processing plant. The mine already last year started showing improvement in its production with a total profitability of 3 711 tonnes of uranium oxide recorded in 2005, the highest since the country’s independence. The world uranium outlook for the next decade looks brighter as significant price hikes have been recorded. Last year, Namibia welcomed on board a new uranium mine to be operational by September this year. The Langer Heinrich uranium mine has an estimated operational life of seventeen years. The mine’s development is predicted to cost about N$580 million and is likely to place Namibia in a position where it controls at least 15 per cent of the world’s production, Dawe stated. Further, the only Namibian gold mine Navachab has in its two years of production managed to reach its production targets. With N$33 million spent on capital equipment and projects, the mine has also benefited from the price rise. The mine, according to Dawe, produced 2 506 kilograms of gold in 2005 compared to 2 068 kilograms in 2004. While some mines have yielded positive results in the past year, the Ongopolo mine, given its depleting ore deposits, could not reach its objectives for the past year. Dawe reported that the mine had in the past year seen production severely curtailed and thus failed to reap the benefits and take advantage of the high copper prices in the market. “To address this, Ongopolo has begun to search for investors to take on major shareholdings in the company,” said the chamber president. With Okorusu mine yielding 114 800 Acidspar last year, one of the leading mines in both tonnage and quality is anticipated to this year to have its production increase to 127 000 tonnes. The dramatic increase in the international zinc price during 2005 was largely driven by speculative and investment fund money. However, there seems to be uncertainty for how long the money will still hold the price up. Based on that case, Dawe says a tightening of the price may therefore be expected during the course of this year. Production of high-grade zinc from the Skorpion mine could not reach its target of 150 000 tonnes but rather recorded a tonnage of 132 813. This year, it is likely that the production levels will be above target, he assured. Meanwhile, salt still remains the country’s largest tonnage export with 670 202 tonnes produced by salt and its chemicals alone.