WINDHOEK – After a recent Diamond Board of Namibia meeting in Oranjemund to pave the way for 24-hour access to the mining town, Namibia’s diamond commissioner, Kennedy Hamutenya, yesterday said the board would like to see the town being accessible “as soon as possible”.
“We (the board) put together a committee to oversee this matter and meet the needs of all stakeholders. The committee will have to ensure that ample security measures are in place for residents of both the mine and the town,” said Hamutenya.
Oranjemund is currently only accessible from 6am to 10pm.
The Diamond Board of Namibia was established in terms of the Diamond Act (13 of 1999) to advise the Minister of Mines and Energy on matters relating to the diamond industry, including the control and protection of diamond resources.
During a recent visit to Oranjemund the town mayor Henry Coetzee told New Era that the uniqueness of the town makes it an attractive investment destination, particularly due to its low or virtually non-existent crime rate, affordable land (selling at N$45 per square metre) as well as its distinctive weather and seemingly tame and untouched wildlife. According to Coetzee all these factors could make for a profitable tourism destination.
Oranjemund was initially established as a diamond mining town by diamond mining giant De Beers and was subsequently taken over by Namdeb, the joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government and eventually declared a town in 2011.
According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, the town has a population of about 9 000 but Coetzee believes this figure could be much higher. The town was initially constructed to accommodate about 12 000 residents in terms of available infrastructure and services. Due to the fact that diamond mining operations are still ongoing around the town, strict access control is still in place.
However, Namdeb still pays for all water and electricity services in Oranjemund, a situation that Coetzee says will change in the near future as water and electricity meters are still being installed.
Also, Namdeb employees do not pay for accommodation as about 99 percent of the houses in the town still belong to Namdeb. “As long as Namdeb is here we at least have a solid customer in terms of rates and taxes.”
In December last year, Coetzee presided over a site handover for the construction of services for the first phase in Extension 4A, that will provide new residential plots with water, electrical, sewage and pump station services. This project constitutes an investment of N$5.1 million.
The mayor explained that the town council is also working on the establishment of a long-distance taxi rank and is in discussions with the Namibia Ports Authority for the construction of a port, which Coetzee said will be good for employment creation.
Namdeb’s managing director Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi also recently noted that the increasing influx of people will only be a positive development for the economy of Oranjemund if new and existing residents are gainfully employed.
Oranjemund is situated within the Sperrgebiet – which is German for prohibited area. The Sperrgebiet extends to around 100 km inland, and its total area of 26 000 square kilometres makes up three percent of Namibia’s land mass. However, mining only takes place in about five percent of the Sperrgebiet, with most of the area acting as a buffer zone. The public is banned from entering most of the area, despite the creation of a national park in 2004.