Turning sod for N$2,3 billion acid plant

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TSUMEB – The Minister of Mines and Energy, Isak Katali, has commissioned the construction of one of Namibia’s largest-ever projects – the N$2,3 billion sulphuric acid plant for the copper-producing Tsumeb Smelter owned by Dundee Precious Metals (DPM).

The official turning of the sod marked the official start of an intensive one-year construction exercise aimed at eliminating problematic sulphur dioxide gas leakages at the plant. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in September 2014 and will employ over 600 workers and upon completion 50 to 60 highly skilled permanent workers. In a speech delivered on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Katali commended the company Dundee Precious Metals on its “short and long-term environment protection plans and its massive capital injection into the local economy. I thank Dundee Precious Metals for creating employment opportunities for our people through investment in our country. This is a welcome investment, which will go a long way in ensuring and promoting the protection of the environment.”

Katali expressed gratitude to the company for its commitment to the protection and conservation of the environment and the health of the local communities, as well as its dedication towards compliance with Cabinet directives issued earlier this year to address health and environmental concerns raised by employees and residents of Tsumeb. “The position of our government is to create and maintain a conducive environment for investors to do business in our country, as well as to ensure that businesses operate within the confines of the laws and regulations of the Republic of Namibia, especially in the areas of environmental protection, labour relations, and the health and safety of our people,” Katali said.

From an environmental perspective, the plant is expected to finally solve the issue of sulphur dioxide emissions that have plagued Tsumeb residents since the smelter opened in 1963.

Once completed, the plant will capture and convert sulphur dioxide into a value-added product, namely sulphuric acid, which will be sold to uranium companies for use in their production processes. Currently, these companies import sulphuric acid from abroad. The facility will be capable of producing between 270 000 and 340 000 tonnes of acid annually.

Speaking at the same occasion, the DPM’s recently appointed president and CEO Rick Howes stressed that almost fifty years ago, the smelter was built to process concentrates from Tsumeb, but over time the smelter had a variety of owners and its existence was frequently threatened. Howes added that it was only through hard work and the extreme dedication of many stakeholders that the smelter found a way to survive. “We strongly believe that what makes us unique as an organization are our core values relating to dignity and respect, commitment to health and safety, environmental responsibility, transparency, community investment and continuous improvement. These are words we live by and demonstrate with our actions and which are captured in our brand promise – ‘We Succeed Because We Care.’

“We want to work with all stakeholders, including civil society, labour unions, government and the private sector to achieve benefits for all concerned. We recognize that we are dependent on each other for mutual success. That is why we are working to build strong partnerships with all our key stakeholders.”

Dr Peter Weber, a senior executive for the internationally renowned Finnish engineering firm, Outotec, which has been contracted to build the acid plant, also gave an overview of the structural, technical and environmental aspects of the plant. Outotec is the global leader in sulphuric acid plant design and delivery and will be responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction management aspects of the huge project.

Last week Howes along with DPM executives also met Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob to update him on the progress that has been achieved since DPM acquired the smelter in 2010.

Engel Nawatiseb

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