THE Namibian Government announced that it had lifted a ten year moratorium on new applications for uranium mines, and repealed rules mandating that companies seeking mining exploration licences be partially owned and managed by Namibians.
The decision was taken in the run up to the Mining Expo and Conference that took place in Windhoek at the beginning of May and was held under the theme “Celebrating 50 years of excellence and dedicated service to Namibia’s mining industry”.
The week before the annual Chamber of mines event the Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, hosted the international oil industry during a special conference where oil giant Exxon Mobil indicated that it will increase its exploration footprint in the offshore search for crude oil.
The multi-million dollar partnership deals for new exploration areas were signed and sealed in the last two weeks.
Namibia’s uranium mining sector is ranked as the sixth-largest in the world. However, its performance has been sluggish recently, not only because of regulation but also because Epangelo Mining is in poor financial health.
Acknowledging uranium’s status as a strategic mineral, the Government has moved to deregulate the rules for companies seeking exploration and production licences in order to support much-needed growth within the subsector.
The deregulation can hold positive spin-offs for the national economy because the mining sector is one of the two main drivers of economic growth that has been weakened by a collapse of output of diamonds.
The Husab mine is set to raise output from 2 900 tonnes in 2017 to 6 800 tonnes this year, has been an important factor in sustaining Namibia’s modest 2019 economic recovery from a long period of recession.
In another positive sign for the uranium subsector, Marenica Energy, an Australian company, has acquired five exploration licences covering an area of 180 square kilometres.
The deregulation means that Namibia can pass Niger and Australia to become the third-largest uranium producer in the world by the end 2019,
The new development in the uranium sector is set to have a positive knock on effect on the country’s trade balance.
An increase in exploration for uranium deposits may support growth in the subsector in the future.