What have been some of the Chamber’s milestones and achievements over the last years?
Some of the big successes of the Chamber of Mines in recent years are mostly related to the reversal of tax proposals that would have unintentionally destroyed Namibia’s mining industry. The tax proposals were rescinded as a result of the Chamber’s direct intervention and consultation with Government. The Chamber demonstrated how the tax proposals would eliminate any new growth or investment into Namibia’s mining sector, a crucially important pillar of Namibia’s economy.
The Chamber also succeeded in reversing a number of harmful policy proposals in recent years. In essence, this advocacy role of the Chamber has been crucial to ensure the continued growth of the sector. In the last 7 years, the sector has witnessed cumulative investments of over N$38 billion which can be attributed to maintaining Namibia’s mining framework as advocated by the Chamber of Mines. These massive new mine developments and investments would not have transpired had the above-mentioned tax proposals been legislated.
In recent years, investments into mine expansion and redevelopment are being made as a result of the successful and continued advocacy efforts of the Chamber.
How did Covid impact production, development and exploration?
In 2020, the mining sector contracted by 14.9%. This was mostly due to the reduced output from the diamond and uranium sectors, which were negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. An old zinc and lead mine, that was recently re-developed and brought back into production, had to be placed on care and maintenance as the Covid-19 protocol could not be implemented in the confined underground mine, and as a result of the declining prices of base metals, which plummeted even further in the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic.
Thankfully, the mining industry was recognized as a strategic sector to keep the Namibian economy afloat. Despite operations being allowed to continue, the mining sector was negatively impacted by staff disruptions and shortages due to the pandemic. The supply of critical inputs and transportation of capital goods were also delayed due to travel restrictions in Southern Africa. This interrupted expansion and development plans of some operations.
Exploration activity was also curtailed for the most part of 2020 due to travel restrictions, however, recorded a sharp increase in the later part of the year which was driven by a substantial rebound in the prices of base metals.
All in all, Namibia’s mining sector remained resilient in the face of Covid-19, and continues to sustain operations while ensuring the utmost safety and health of the mining workforce.
What are the biggest challenges facing Namibian miners today from a regulatory perspective?
The two most prominent issues still outstanding from a regulatory perspective are the finalization of the Namibia Investment Promotion Act (NIPA) and the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill (NEEEB). The two pieces of legislation are now in their final drafting phases and have received considerable input from private sector. The finalization of NEEEB and NIPA have been pending for more than five years, and will significantly shape the investment landscape in Namibia once they are finalized. Their conclusion is thus critical to ease investor sentiment, and unlock and realize major investment into Namibia’s mining and other key sectors. The Chamber is of the view that Namibia’s performance in the annual Fraser surveys will greatly improve once NIPA and NEEEB have been finalized.
Which metals have the most exciting prospects and potential in Namibia?
Gold is an exciting prospect for Namibia at the moment. The gold mines in operation have embarked on expansion projects that will increase Namibia’s gold output, and there are two promising gold exploration projects.
Namibia also has a number of base metals projects that have now become more attractive. This includes the old Kombat copper mine, which is being re-developed to commence with production before the end of this year.
Currently, there is optimism regarding the uranium market and likely price increases, as countries pursue cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy, of which nuclear power is one of the most viable sources.
Lastly, battery minerals, particularly lithium and tin, are also promising commodities, and Namibia has previously produced these minerals.