By Engel Nawatiseb TSUMEB The Ongopolo Mining and Processing Company yesterday successfully carried out its first underground blasting operations at its Tsumeb West satellite mine after it took over mining operations through Weatherly International PLC early this year. The mine’s chief executive officer Rod Webster told New Era that the underground pit has undergone a lot of drilling operations to recover ore bodies needed for its mining purposes. He commended a group of 21 trainees, that are currently undergoing intensive training in blasting, for successfully completing the first phase in blasting. The group was recently employed from the “street” as part of the ongoing employment creation initiatives of the mine. “I am very much impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by you all, particularly the female blasters. You are here to serve your company and community so that all can benefit when we reach our maximum levels of production,” said Webster. The manager of underground operations at the Tsumeb West mine, Vilet Urbandski, said the group completed the first phase in less than two weeks of the three-month training programme and needed to be commended for their commitment. He told New Era that the company recently repaired a drilling truck at a cost of less than half a million dollars compared to its initial cost of N$2.5 million, towards complementing the running fleet of underground drillers. “This is a cost-saving exercise that we are vigorously pursuing aimed at redirecting more funding to other areas of mining, such as the Tschudi branch and others,” he noted. Webster said the ore structure at Tschudi mine looks very promising and created hope for double production. Ongopolo is reportedly producing 40 tonnes of copper ore from its operations per annum, that is likely to reach a production mark of between 100 and 150 tonnes per annum from June 2007. The mine is also set for more production at the Uris mining area towards the same period next year. A source close to New Era however revealed that a conflict has surfaced between the new owners of Ongopolo and some of its former principal managers over the ownership of Uris mining area. “The new owners have invested millions to get the mine back to production levels and are serious to invest more millions towards more production, particularly at Uris mining area, but are being blocked. How could somebody claim ownership in an area of which the mine holds prospecting rights?” the source questioned. Webster however told New Era they will deal with any obstacles in their way to develop the mine but declined further comment. The former managing director of Ongopolo has reportedly constructed a luxury lodge on the disputed land. Andre Neethling was dropped from the management structure during June this year, shortly after Weatherly International bought the mine.
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