The managing director of Areva Resources Namibia, Hilifa Mbako, has dismissed media reports claiming its water desalination plant was offered to government for N$50 billion, saying the figure is grossly misleading, as Areva apparently put a price tag of US$200 million (N$3 billion) on their plant. Mbako said the selling price is in fact the amount Areva initially invested in the construction of the desalination plant. Desalination involves the removal of salt from seawater and the purification of it so that it can be safe and fit for human consumption.
“We’re not here to make any profit out of the sale, as our core business is to mine uranium and we want to focus on that. So speculation the desalination plant is being sold for N$50 billion to the government, as reported again by some online media outlets this morning, is not true at all,” he said.
Addressing a media briefing yesterday Mbako said it does not make sense to go too high or too low with the price, “as we are only here to recover our capital investment”. He said the plant was offered to the government first due to the fact it should rather be in the hands of government than a private utility.
Mbako also indicated that negotiations with the government over the proposed offer are at an advanced stage.
New Era reported earlier this month that Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa submitted a proposal to buy the plant to President Hage Geingob after the government negotiating team drafted and handed their report to him as the line minister.
“After the report was given to us as the ministerial committee, I forwarded it to the president, because he must have an insight into the report,” Mutorwa said. Once Cabinet considers the report, it will make a final decision on the recommended options, including the option of buying the existing desalination plant or building a new plant. The desalination plant was originally built to supply water to Areva’s Trekkopje mine and is the first to be constructed in southern Africa. It is located some 30 km north of Swakopmund and has the capacity to produce 20 million cubic metres of potable water per year. It can be upgraded to produce 26 million cubic metres within the existing infrastructure. The plant is currently connected to and supplies water to NamWater through a pipeline feeding from the Omdel aquiver that was completed in August 2013. The current water supply to NamWater from the plant is 5.04 million cubic metres per year.
The plant supplies high quality reverse osmosis water, using advanced membrane water technologies and produces better quality water than the existing underground water resources.
The plant has over the past two years helped relieve the increasing pressure on scarce water resources and guarantees a sustainable water supply to the mines and nearby communities during any hydrological drought at the coast.
The plant currently supplies water to Husab and Rössing uranium mines. If the Namibian government opts to buy Areva’s plant, the said mines would still be supplied with sufficient water, officials have confirmed.