Printer Friendly



NAMIBIA attained independence on March 21, 1990, when a government was formed by the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO). Under the Foreign Investments Act, adopted in December 1990, foreign investors enjoy equal treatment with local firms, guarantees against expropriation and the right to remit profits and dividends.

Minerals accounted for 76% of total export earnings of R2.7 billion ($1.0 billion) in 1989, 29% of the GDP and about 25% of government revenue. About one-third of export earnings normally come from two products -- uranium and gem diamonds. In all, 44 mines are operative in Namibia producing some 30 different minerals.

Mineral production and revenue suffered a downturn in 1990, mainly due to the economic recession in Namibia's main export markets which resulted in lower prices for most products, which was exacerbated by the strength of the rand against the U.S. dollar and other currencies. This has reduced anticipated tax revenue from the mining industry. Forecasts show that mineral revenue in the form of direct taxes will be some R192 million for 1990-91.

A new Mines and Minerals Act has been drafted and is expected to be approved by the Namibian parliament by end-1991. It sets out a dual licensing system with simplified procedures for small miners.


Rossing Uranium continued to work the world's largest low-grade orebody of radioactive material at some 20% below full capacity of 4,540 t of uranium oxide in 1990. The deposit, located 65 km inland from Swakopmund, has reserves expected to last until at least 2020 at present extraction rates. Although sanctions were lifted at independence, Rossing has found it hard to gain new long-term contracts. In August 1990, however, it signed a contract to supply 5,200 t to Total Compagnie Nucleaire for onward sale to Electricite de France (EDF) for delivery over 1995-2002. RTZ Corp. of the U.K. remains the largest shareholder with a 46.5% beneficial interest but the government has a small equity interest of 3.5% carrying 50% of the voting rights.

Although the South African Atomic Energy Act continues to apply in Namibia for the present, restrictions on the publication of production data were lifted following independence. Output in 1990 amounted to 3,785 t, slightly above the 3,629 t mined in the previous year, but shipments were considerably below the levels of 1989.

In March 1991 Rossing announced production would be cut by a further 20% due to the poor short-term sales prospects. As of the beginning of April, annual output was reduced to 2,950 t, with production for 1991 expected to amount to around 3,080 t. Reduced operations are expected to continue for three years, with output then to be increased in steps from 1994 with the aim of returning to eventual full production. Operations in the open-pit have been cutback from seven to five days a week, while remaining on a 24-hour basis, and employees surplus to requirements have been offered jobs in other divisions.

Namibia contains several other large uranium orebodies, all in the central Namib region, to which rights are held by Anglo American, Gencor and Gold Fields. Of these, the Langer Heinrich prospect near Trekkopje has the highest grade.


The alluvial coastal deposits stretching 100 km northwards of Oranjemund contain some of the world's highest quality diamonds with gem content normally exceeding 98%, although production from the main fields has been steadily falling since the early 1980s due to lower average ore grades. Mining has been carried on almost continuously since 1919 by Consolidated Diamond Mines Ltd (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of De Beers Centenary AG.

Local sorting and valuation of Namibian diamonds is carried out by CSO Valuations Namibia (Valco) but there is no local cutting or polishing industry at present. CDM's mining rights along the coast do not expire until 2010 but the present exclusive marketing arrangement with the Central Selling Organisation (CSO) comes up for renewal at the end of 1991.

CDM produced a total 747,931 ct in 1990, 718,736 ct were produced on shore, some 18.5% less than in 1989. This was due largely to lower than expected grades in the main mining areas and start-up problems with the new Auchas mine, inland on the north bank of the Orange river, which came on stream in mid-1990 and is designed to produce some 44,000 ct/y of mainly gem-quality diamonds. A total of 52.6 Mt of overburden was stripped in 1990 with 16.4 Mt treated at an overall grade of 4.4 ct/100 t, down from 5.2 ct in 1989. An additional 29,195 ct were recovered from marine operations, 35.5% more than in 1989.

Output is expected to show a considerable improvement in 1991 with the commissioning of new mining facilities at Chameis beach, 120 km north of Oranjemund, and Elizabeth Bay near Luderitz. Production at Chameis began in February 1991 and this is expected to produce 75,000 ct/y of gem quality stones over a minimum two-year period. R16 million was spent on installing equipment, including modified screening plants relocated from Oranjemund which have a capacity to process 55,600 t/month of diamondiferous ore.

The Elizabeth Bay mine is much larger and was due on stream in May 1991 with a capacity of 50,000 ct/y of 96% gem-quality stones. Delineated reserves in the area, last worked in the 1930s, are estimated as sufficient for the treatment of 4 Mt/y of ore over a ten-year period, which should be sufficient to boost CDM's overall output to around the Mct/y level. CDM has invested R135 million in the development of Elizabeth Bay.

Base and Precious Minerals

Namibia became a primary gold producer at the end of 1989 with the commissioning of the R85 million Navachab mine near Karibib, central Namibia. Production at the open-cast mine totalled 1,453 kg in 1990, with 814,900 t of ore treated at a head grade of 2.1 g/t. Production is being gradually stepped up to 1,900 kg/y. Present ore reserves total 11 Mt, sufficient for 13 years, while ongoing prospecting may prove additional reserves. Anglo American and its associates hold a two-thirds interest and CDM one-third in Erongo Mining and Exploration Co. which has a 70% stake in Navachab. Metallgesellschaft, via Metall Mining of Canada, and Rand Mines hold 20% and 10% respectively.

Tsumeb Corp. is the country's largest and most diversified metals producer with three operating mines: Tsumeb, the adjacent Kombat/Asis Ost/West complex and Otjihase near Windhock, in which it holds a 70% interest in a joint venture with JCI. It operates an integrated copper smelter/lead refinery at Tsumeb which enables the recovery of by-products (silver, refined cadmium, refined arsenic trioxide and sodium antimonate). Small quantities of gold and larger volumes of iron pyrite, which is sold to the Rossing mine, are recovered from the Otjihase copper orebody. The main polymetallic orebody at Tsumeb is expected to be essentially worked out by 1994-95 and efforts to locate additional mineralization in the area continue. The main orebody located so far is at Tschudi which has reserves of 9.4 Mt grading 1.58% copper, from which limited recovery started in 1990. Total ore reserves at the end of 1990 were 26.3 Mt with an average grade of 2.3% copper.

Total ore production from the three operating mines was 3% lower in 1990 at 1.6 Mt with production problems at Tsumeb and Otjihase only partially offset by improved results from Kombat. Production of blister copper dropped to 32,700 t, down from 36,600 t in 1989, refined lead output was down 9,100 t to 35,100 t in 1990 and contained silver output fell from 110 t in 1989 to 93 t. There was a shortfall in copper concentrate from Tsumeb and Otjihase, while 3,500 t of material from other sources were treated in 1990. Production of pyrite concentrate dropped from 196,500 t in 1989 to 138,900 t, reflecting Rossing's reduced 1990 requirement. The majority shareholder is Gold Fields Namibia (GFN).

The other large base metals producer is the South African Iron and Steel Corp. through its subsidiary Iscor Namibia, which operates the Rosh Pinah lead/zinc mine in the extreme southwest, with Moly Copper of South Africa as minority shareholder. Zinc concentrate output was 66,300 t in 1990 (37,700 t contained zinc), down from 79,800 t in 1989, with concentrates shipped to South Africa. The mine also produced 23,900 t of lead concentrate in 1990 (11,700 t of contained lead and 23 t of contained silver) which is sent to Tsumeb for refining. Current mineable reserves are sufficient for 15 years and since 1978-79 the mine has consistently operated at a profit. In contrast Iscor's wholly-owned open-cast tin mine at Uis in the northwest was closed in November 1990 due to the unfavourable tin price. Production of metal contained in concentrate fell from 1,120 t in 1989 to 921 t, with 4,000 kg of tantalite concentrate produced as a by-product.

A variety of other base and industrial minerals are mined, often in fairly small quantities, of which the most important are fluorspar and salt. Production of 98% pure acid-grade fluorspar (acidspar) by Okorusu Fluorspar, from the country's largest deposit near Otjiwarongo, amounted to 27,000 t in 1990. The plant has a 10,000 t/month ore treatment capacity and the product is exported to Europe. Salt is produced principally from brine pans near Swakopmund, which accounted for 110,000 t out of the total 155,100 t of coarse salt produced in 1990. Exports of salt to Zambia and other Central African countries has started since independence.

Small amounts of lithium ore continue to be produced at the Rubicon mine near Karibib, with output of 1,271 t in 1990, of which 1,134 t comprised petalite. Central Namibia contains considerable deposits of high quality marble, granite and other stone, which are worked on a small scale. Output averaged 13,000 t in 1989-90. Semi-precious stones, including blue-lace agate, amethyst, rose quartz and tourmaline are recovered at various small deposits and in 1990 output more than doubled to 786 t.

Exploration expenditure by members of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, which includes all the large-scale and most medium-sized operators, reached a record R67 million in 1990, up from R63 million in 1989 and R39 million in 1988. The Chamber noted that a number of prospecting grants had been taken out in northern Namibia which had received little attention in the previous two decades due to the war along the border. Active prospecting is also being carried out by smaller concerns who are members of the Association of Prospectors and Miners of Namibia. Rossing has developed an active exploration programme for minerals other than uranium and is currently evaluating a graphite prospect near Otjiwarongo. It is spending R3.3 million during 1991 on a feasibility study, including establishment of a pilot plant, with the aim of deciding by early 1992 on whether to proceed with development of a mining operation.

Production(a)                     1989      1990
Diamonds (000 ct)                  927       763
Gold (kg)                          336     1,605
Silver                             108        92
Uranium                          3,600     3,800
Copper (blister)                38,000    33,200
Lead (refined)                  44,200    35,100
Zinc (concentrate)              79,800    66,300
Tin (concentrate)                1,700     1,400
Pyrite (concentrate)           196,500   138,900
Tantalite (concentrate, kg)      5,700     3,700
Lithium ores                     1,400     1,300
Arsenic trioxide                 2,400     1,600
Cadmium                             88        69
Fluorspar                       25,700    27,100
Marble                          12,600    12,800
Salt (coarse)                  141,400   155,100
Semi-precious stones               270       786

Value(b) ($US million):
Diamonds                           310       258
Gold                                 4        19
Silver                              22        15
Uranium                            255(c)    240(c)
Copper                              93        80
Lead                                30        30
Tin                                  9         5
Zinc                                39        42
Other                               11(c)     11(c)
Total                              773       700(c)

(a)Tonnes unless otherwise stated, some minor minerals

excluded. b. Export sales, converted at average annual commercial rate

for the rand. (c)Estimates (uranium exports are not separately itemized).
COPYRIGHT 1991 Aspermont Media UK
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:review of Namibia's mineral mining industry in 1990
Author:Murray, Roger
Publication:Mining Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Swaziland.
Next Article:Zambia.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters