• Mining in Namibia

Mining in Namibia

Mining contributes to 25% of the country’s income. It is the largest contributor to the Namibian economy. Namibia has various natural resources including diamonds, uranium, copper, gold, lead, tin, lithium, cadmium, zinc, salt and vanadium.

In 2015 the mining industry accounted for approximately 19,000 jobs in Namibia vs. 14,000 in 2011. Indirectly the mining industry contributes to the livelihood of 100 000 people.

Approximately N$ 55 million is spent on training and skills development. Between 300 and 500 artisans are qualified each year by The Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT). 110 new bursaries were issued in 2011.

Five major companies account for 95% of the mining income. Diamond and uranium mining are by far the two most vital industries in Namibia.

Total revenue by non-diamond mining was N$13.82 billion and diamond mining earned N$11.46 billion last year. Namibia produces approximately 2% of the world’s gem quality diamonds.

Namibia has two significant uranium mines, which together provide for roughly 5 per cent of the world's uranium oxide mining output. In 2015, Rössing Uranium alone produced 1,245 tons of uranium oxide, producing 2 per cent of the world's uranium.

In Namibia, mining exploration is done mainly by the private sector. The Ministry of Trade and Industry regulates manufacturing, including mineral beneficiation, cement production, and semiprecious stone processing. Exploration at the moment focuses on base metals, diamond, gold, natural gas and uranium. This shows that the mining sector has great potential to grow and continue to development in the country. The most recently discovery was Oil, off the coast of Namibia.

The vast empty landscapes and dry deserts are two factors that seriously hinder development. It is not always viable to provide electricity and water to the arid areas where some minerals are found.

From a legal perspective, the mining industry in Namibia is regulated by the various acts. Diamond and Petroleum are two natural resources that are closely monitored by the Namibian Government. The Government has a royalty schedule that levies 3% of the market price of base precious and rare metals as well as non-nuclear mineral fuels. A 2 % levy was placed on nuclear mineral fuels and industrial minerals.

The regulations with regard to health and safety of mining have also become more formal and are enforced by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. This helps to ensure that staff and people in surrounding areas are not harmed by the effects of mining including radiation and pollution. The Chamber of Mining reported one fatality in 2015, 50 lost day injuries and 80 disabling injuries, which is a significant decline from injuries recorded in 2014

The Chamber of Mines is responsible for the representation of the interest of all major mining and exploration companies in Namibia. They had 115 members in December 2015

The history of mining goes back to 1851 where explorers found Ovambo people smelting surface copper deposits in Otavi. The mining industry was officially established in 1855 in Walvis Bay.

Environmentally, mining can do tremendous damage by destroying habitats. Drainage of water sources is another serious problem, especially because many of the mines in Namibia are located in arid/semi-arid areas. Finally the noise, and dirt created by a mine can cause air, soil, water and noise pollution.

The fact that Namibia’s economy and working community is so dependent on the mining industry means that if one of the larger companies close down there will be enormous economic and social problems. Many towns (such as Tsumeb, Arandis, and Rosh Pinah) are solely dependent on the mines in the area.

Namibia’s mining sector continued to perform comparatively well, according to the Chamber of Mines’ annual report, despite the various global headwinds experienced in 2015. In the wake of China’s cooling economy, mining companies world-wide were forced to cut costs, while many were left with little choice but to retrench staff and suspend operations. According to a statement released by the Mining Industry Association of Southern Africa (MIASA), some 70,000 jobs were lost in the mining sector across the region since the down-turn of commodity prices. Although not left unaffected, Namibia finds itself in a unique position in which the mining sector is beginning to reap the fruits of prior investments. 

Although there are many negative factors affecting the future of mining in Namibia, there is still a lot of potential for growth. The mining industry has become more conscious about the effects it has on the environment and the overall development of the country.