SWAKOPMUND – Chief Executive Officer of Areva Resources, Hilifa Mbako says contrary to recent media reports, Areva Resources still plans to sell the N$3-billion desalination plant to the Namibian government.
Recent reports claimed Areva Resources would give the desalination free of charge to the government.
Areva constructed the desalination plant, situated at Wlotzkabaken about 30 km north of Swakopmund, to supply water to mines in Erongo and to alleviate water shortages in a region that has no perennial rivers.
Desalination involves the removal of salt from seawater so that it can be safe, especially for human consumption.
During a media briefing yesterday in Swakopmund, Mbako said the plant was offered for sale to the government last December for an undisclosed sum. “We are not planning to make any profit from the sale but one must take into account the cost at which the facility was constructed, which makes it clear that it cannot just be offered freely. The cost must at least be recovered,” Mbako explained.
“Water is scarce in the Erongo Region and we cannot rely on groundwater for much longer. Fishing companies and the current development will need a lot of water; as a result, water supply has been a major constraint for development at the coast,” he said.
He said the plant was offered to government due to the fact that it should rather be in the hands of the government than a private utility. “Our business is not water or rather our focus, hence therefore the facility was offered to the government rather to the private sector,” Mbako said.
He said the plant currently supplies Husab and Rössing Uranium mines with water and would even continue to do so if the deal with the government is completed.
Referring to Areva’s current status, as the mine is still under maintenance care, Mbako said that they are using little water. “However, once we have come out of maintenance care and are in full production we will certainly also be supplied water via the desalination plant,” he added.
Asked whether the sale agreement of the plant makes provision for Areva to buy water at a special price, Mbako said a preference clause was also included while the mines experts are also conducting their own research regarding the supply of water.
He further stated that Areva is also not compelled to sell the plant and can keep it “but due to the fact that water is a basic need, it should be in the hands of the government”, stressed the CEO of Areva.
The plant has a design capacity of 20 million cubic metres a year. Erongo’s annual demand is at least 11 million cubic metres of water.
Due to the massive transformation the Erongo region is undergoing, by 2020 the water demand for water is expected to have increased from the current 6 million to 32 million cubic metres per year.