Economic Development and Job Creation Foreseen for Tsumeb

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The copper-mining town of Tsumeb is fast returning to its former glory after the two latest additions of the Tschudi and Tsumeb West Mines. The new mines will go into production in the next few months. Together with production from other operating mines at Kombat, Otjihase and Matchless, the new production will contribute greatly to raising Ongopolo’s overall copper output of approximately 20ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 tonnes a year. For a long time in the past, the closure of the former TCL Mines nearly resulted in lost opportunities for Tsumeb’s residents with regard to jobs and business. It also ultimately affected the economy of the town. The town is now gradually recovering, following recent development at the two former mine sites, the largest operation being at Tschudi some 20 kilometres west of Tsumeb, and the other at Tsumeb West about three kilometres south-west of the copper town. Weatherly International (PLC) (Weatherly), a company listed on London’s AIM Exchange came to the rescue of the town when it took over the management of Ongopolo in April last year under an interim management agreement. This resulted in Weatherly taking ownership of 97 percent of Ongopolo on July 19 last year. Yet, according to Manager of New Projects and Technical Services at Ongopolo, Junior Schoeman, “prior to April 2006 there had been a steady decline in output from the Ongopolo mines, due to severe financial constraints.” Now, in an effort to boost such production and to assist in the mining at Tschudi and Tsumeb West mines, Ongopolo Mining and Processing Limited recently donated new machinery and equipment including four Volvo haul trucks worth over N$10-million in total. Schoeman said the Volvo trucks were selected because of their high body volumes that enable faster hauling of bigger loads as well as the accurate and powerful dump system. “Low fuel consumption, the hydraulic retardation system and low maintenance requirements also help to reduce costs,” stated Schoeman in a press release. It appears that most of the trucks used by Ongopolo have reached the end of their lifespan and have therefore become too costly to maintain and could ultimately compromise the safety of the workforce. However, with the introduction of the new equipment and machinery, the production and development of these mines will be carried out more efficiently and effectively. If no unforeseen difficulties are experienced with the developments of Tschudi and Tsumeb West, it is expected that sufficient ore can be mined to enable the Tsumeb Concentrator to be restarted in May/June of this year, leading to an additional employment of 45 people in Tsumeb. Expressing gratitude over the recent donation of new hauler trucks destined for underground operations at Tschudi and Matchless mines, Mayor of Tsumeb Engel Nawatiseb said the former glory of the copper town is being revived. “I am convinced that the Volvo haulers will make this task easier for the workers to produce more in record times. Taking the destiny of our town as well as Ongopolo into our own hands means, amongst other things, making a great effort to forge local identity and unity,” said Nawatiseb, adding that the outlook of mining activities was gloomy in the past, but has lately seen a significant improvement. He appealed to the mineworkers who will operate this machinery to take ownership of it by working hard and diligently at all times. Nawatiseb also called on residents to engage in self-help initiatives, through Small and Medium Enterprises, in order to become self-sufficient. It is only in this way that job-creation and economic development can come about in the town and the region as a whole. Weatherly also plans to examine the feasibility of expanding Ongopolo’s smelting capacity significantly in the near future, enabling it to process much larger volumes of ore concentrates from other mining companies in the region, and beyond. All of Ongopolo’s operations are located along a strategic transport route stretching from the port of Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast to the major copper-producing areas of Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).