Namibia’s traditional mineral strength is seeing growth and diversification.
Direct contribution to the Namibian economy from mining is estimated at approximately 15%. Considering the auxiliary benefits to employment rates and development of a diverse service sector, how would you assess the importance of the mining sector to Namibia?
IK: The mining sector still ranks amongst the biggest contributor to our economy through employment, payment of taxes and royalties, procurement of goods and services, etc.
How accurate is international investor perception of Namibia, what misconceptions exist and what elements of Namibia would you highlight to an international mining audience?
IK: Namibia has over the years attracted significant numbers of both foreign and local investors in the minerals sector. To me, that is testimony that we do things right, meaning that the investors have confidence in our policies, legislative frameworks as well as our administrative processes. There are of course always those who for one reason or the other may think otherwise and create misconceptions. Sometimes those misconceptions are created by people who are ignorant. What the mining industry in the world needs to know is that we have a stable democratic government, one of the best geological surveys in the world with a comprehensive geological database and continuously improving, security of tenure, good infrastructure and a very competitive environment for investment, supported by a transparent open door policy of the government.
Could you tell us more about Namibia’s national Epangelo Mining Company and the significance of its establishment for the mining sector?
IK: Epangelo Mining Company was established to participate in the minerals sector for the benefit of our people and co contribute to national development. I shall refer you to its website, where you will find the mandate, objective and obligations to the people of Namibia, amongst others.
Macro economic factors have lead to a severe depression of the uranium markets. What are the implications for Namibia and how dependent is Namibia on the uranium sector?
IK: The implications of the depressed uranium market is simply that new projects and especially marginal ones will become non viable now and in the near future. They might thus be shelved till there is confidence that the market will improve. Being amongst the top five uranium producers in the world, the sector is not only important for the local economy but for the global uranium sector. At the moment we only have two uranium mines, another one will open within the next 18 months. If the situation were to revert to the market levels and the boom experienced during 2006 to 2009/10, one would see more mines coming on-stream, creating employment, paying taxes and royalties, boosting local procurement and generally contributing to the development of our country.
You recently issued an 18-month moratorium on marine phosphate mining. What message does this send to the mining sector and the nation? Also, how significant could the development of a marine phosphate mining industry be for the Namibian economy?
IK: The moratorium was issued in order for the stakeholders to carefully study the impact on the ecosystem of this new baby on the mining front. Since this industry does not exist anywhere in the world and we might be the first country in the world, we find it imperative that we do not become the guinea pig but rather well researched industry that is viable in all aspects. The message is that the government cares for the present and future of the country and her people. The significance of the contribution to the national economy of this industry might only be known after the studies have been completed.
2012 saw Namibian mining’s worst fatality record for the last 10 years with the unfortunate loss of five lives. How much of a concern is this statistic for the sector and what is being done to ensure the situation improves?
IK: Any loss of life, under any circumstances is a concern both to government and private citizens alike. We have engaged stakeholders in order to address these painful statistics and have come up with recommendations that both government and industry are currently implementing. Hopefully at the end of the day, we shall go back to the years when we enjoyed zero fatalities in the industry.
The official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) will be read by all the delegates of African Mining Indaba 2014, in Cape Town. What is your message to the African-focused international mining community about Namibia?
IK: Take the next flight, come and see what we offer in Namibia!!!
This interview was conducted as part of the research conducted on African mining jurisdictions by Global Business Reports (GBR) as part of our partnership with African Mining Indaba LLC. The aim of this partnership is the production of the single most comprehensive intelligence report on the continent’s mineral sector. The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, will be launched next February 2014, as the only official publication providing country-specific information at Africa’s top mining event, the 2014 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba™ held in Cape Town, South Africa.