By Engel Nawatiseb
Weatherly International has described the 18 months since it acquired Ongopolo assets in July 2006 as “exceptional”.
At the time of acquisition, Ongopolo was in severe distress with only one mine, Otjihase, in production.
Accessible ore reserves across all mines were depleted, the smelter was in disrepair, the company had substantial debts and the workforce and management were demoralised.
Chief Executive Officer, Rod Webster, stressed that the company faced a real challenge if it was to successfully revive the operations and return Namibia’s copper industry back to profitability.
The company saw tremendous potential in the assets and its confidence has been justified by the progress achieved during the past year-and-a-half. Over N$245 million has been invested in assets.
Reflecting on the achievements that went with 2007, Webster noted that the Ongopolo name has disappeared and two new operating subsidiary companies, Weatherly Mining Namibia and Namibia Custom Smelters have emerged. Each company has its own clearly defined growth strategy, performance targets and management structure.
“It is vital to our clients to be informed that our senior management team has been strengthened with experienced and talented members: Deon Garbers is Managing Director of Weatherly Mining Namibia; Hans Nolte has been promoted to Managing Director of Namibia Custom Smelters; Ron Clarke is Country Manager; Craig Rix is Chief Financial Officer in Namibia and Deon Du Plessis is the group’s Exploration Manager.”
On the mining side, Weatherly Mining Namibia has successfully rehabilitated four existing mines and commissioned a new one – Tschudi Mine.
“Our next priority is to focus on its long-term vision of becoming a profitable and sustainable metals producer.”
Alongside maintaining production at the operations, Weatherly’s priorities for 2008 will focus on identifying sustainable growth.
Key to this are two medium-term projects and a regional exploration programme. The company believes there are opportunities to resume production at the Berg Aukas zinc mine and has initiated a feasibility study.
During 2008, the mine workings will be dewatered as part of an underground evaluation programme to verify the reserves and resources and obtain metallurgical samples for the design of a new concentrator. Completion of the feasibility study is expected by the end of this year.
At Tschudi, the ore body characteristics indicate support for an open pit mining method, potentially with subsequent underground operations below the open pit workings. The programme for this year is to infill-drill the ore west of the underground operation to JORC classification as a prerequisite for completing a feasibility study by the end of the year.
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