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Namibia puts local economy first says Sisay

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John Sisay is CEO of Ongopolo Mining Limited and has over 20 years' experience working for some of the largest global and regional players, including De Beers. Image credit: Ongopolo Mining

Namibia puts local economy first says Sisay

Namibia’s decision to ban unprocessed ore will change the country’s economic trajectory, says John Sisay, CEO of Ongopolo Mining in a recent interview.  

(Q) What impact will the recent decision to ban the export of unprocessed ore have on Namibia’s mining sector and economy?  

Namibia’s move to ban the export of unprocessed ore represents a crucial shift in its economic trajectory- turning it from exporter to producer. This policy shift is all about putting the local economy first. It means that mining operations won’t just take from the natural resources; they’ll also give back by boosting the country’s economic growth – something I firmly support.

Banning the export of unprocessed ore encourages the growth of local processing facilities and supply chains, drawing investors interested in establishing processing plants and related infrastructure down the line.

Increased investment will grow the local economy, generating job opportunities within our community.

The policy isn’t driven by resource protectionism, as some might suggest. Rather, it understands the benefits of a strong local mining economy for the future global supply of mining materials, such as stable supply and prices, signalling a positive and forward-looking strategy.

(Q) How can the Government ensure mineral beneficiation becomes a reality in Namibia?  

A well-executed beneficiation policy can bring significant advantages to Namibia. The government’s active involvement is pivotal in this process. Mineral beneficiation should be established as a national priority by creating a comprehensive policy framework that clearly outlines the objective, strategies and incentives to encourage value addition within the mining sector.

The main obstacles that need to be addressed to promote mineral beneficiation revolve around the scarcity of skilled professionals necessary for these industries, investment conditions that are not very conducive, struggles in securing financial support, and the presence of high production costs. These are the key areas that the government should actively get involved.

One key move should be to establish favourable regulations that encourage investments in mineral beneficiation. This could include offering tax incentives to companies engaged in value-added processes. Such incentives can serve as a powerful magnet for businesses, encouraging their participation and boosting the growth of this sector.

I cannot stress enough how crucial investing in infrastructure is. Transportation networks, reliable power supply, and water resources are vital for capturing a share of the value generated from mining, lowering production costs.

Access to capital is a crucial factor as well. One way the government can help is by setting up government-backed loan programs or partnering with financial institutions to make financing available for beneficiation projects. Finally, let’s not forget about the importance of having a skilled workforce. Investing in vocational training programs is key to ensuring we have the right people with the right skills for successful beneficiation projects.

(Q) Why is developing local supply chains so important to improve the sector’s sustainability and impact?  

Local supply chains generate jobs within the country both directly and indirectly. There’s a ripple effect.

Increased demand in a specific sector (mining- an important one in Namibia’s case) leads to increased business activities, which, in turn, results in more job opportunities and overall economic growth. In essence, the impact of a robust local supply chain extends beyond its immediate workforce, benefiting various interconnected industries and the broader economy, for example construction or transportation.

As we continue to develop our local supply chains, we need to invest in training and improving the skills of our local workers. This ensures they can meet the industry’s standards effectively. Investments of these kind will not only support job creation but will make Namibians more employable overall.

Finally, the development of local supply chains also leads to a reduction in emissions from transportation. When mining closer to the source, the transportation distances become shorter. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Many mining companies are increasingly committed to reducing their environmental impact. Utilizing the local supply chains with a focus on emissions reduction can help them reach their sustainability goals.

(Q) Why do you believe progressive, ESG-friendly mining practices are integral to the success of a modern mining operation? 

In the contemporary mining landscape, the adoption of ESG-friendly mining practices is a fundamental requirement. This is because these practices help attract investments and ensure the long-term sustainability of mining operations. Mining has historically struggled with a negative perception, making it challenging for companies to secure the funding and public support necessary for a cleaner energy future.

I believe, Namibia has emerged as a shining example, showcasing how the mining industry can become green and why this is important. Rather than merely meeting compliance requirements, Namibia’s strong emphasis on community engagement, environmental preservation, and social responsibility is now seen as an essential part of doing business. This is extremely attractive to investors.

(Q) Why is Namibia becoming an increasingly attractive place for mining investors?  

Namibia encompasses many pull factors for mining investors. The blend of abundant resources, progressive regulations, and a reliable power supply has laid the groundwork for incredibly attractive investment opportunities.

The country is becoming increasingly attractive in the region. Namibia has a longstanding reputation as one of the safest nations in Africa, with minimal political risk and enduring stability. But this is not all. Namibia has strong economic partnerships with the EU and China and follows sustainable mining rules under strict government monitoring. This enhances the nation’s appeal to foreign investors.

Namibia’s strong energy supply, combined with these factors, is setting the country apart from other mining nations in the region, serving as a prime example on how a modern mining operation should work. I think it’s now a race for first movers as the world beginning to recognise this “blue ocean” opportunity.

John Sisay is CEO of Ongopolo Mining Limited and has over 20 years’ experience working for some of the largest global and regional players, including De Beers.

Namibia puts local economy first says Sisay

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Namibia puts local economy first says Sisay

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management