'NAMIBIA TO PASS NEW MINING EMPOWERMENT LAWS BY APRIL 2017'

Source: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Namibia wants new laws passed within a year compelling mining firms to have a minimum 20 percent stake reserved for the black majority, before issuing or renewing prospecting and mining licences as part of an empowerment drive to fight poverty, the mines minister said on Thursday.

The southern African country, where the Chinese are building a new N$20 billion uranium mine at Husab, has been hit by a global commodities slump as revenue earned from diamond and uranium exports slipped in a sector that contributed 13 percent to gross domestic product in 2014.

“Within the next legislative calendar, which ends April next year, it should become law,” Obeth Kandjoze, Minister of Mines and Energy, told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference in Cape Town.

“The principles are what remain non-negotiable. Namibians of all walks of life, of all sexes, must become participants in the economy and mining is no different,” Kandjoze said, adding that consultations with the industry would take place before final quotas were agreed.

He said the industry, which mines uranium, copper, zinc and gold by companies including Areva, Vedanta and B2Gold, had responded positively to the new draft laws, with the Namibian Chamber of Mines also suggesting a mining charter in a parallel bid to open up the sector to a previously disadvantaged majority.

“We continue to see shareholding revolve around a few and we want to see that change. We want to see job creation in a far more transparent, open procurement system that will accord opportunities to all,” said Kandjoze, who slammed the continued dominance of “white, male ex-patriates” in management.

The draft empowerment Bill, published for public comment this month, also makes provision for at least five percent of a mining company to be owned by Namibians.

It says if the proposed structure of the applicant does not meet the government's objectives for broad-based empowerment, the minister has the right to propose amendments so that the application meets poverty eradication and empowerment aims.

“There has to be some teeth built into the legislation to make companies comply,” Kandjoze said.

The minister said after a fire at the processing plant of the Husab uranium mine in December, mining was continuing and Swakop Uranium was stockpiling material, but commissioning of the plant had been delayed by six months as a result.

It was unclear when the plant would be fixed, he said.

Turning to the Kudu gas development, Kandjoze said the government wanted to offload its 44 percent stake in the stranded offshore gas field of more than one trillion cubic feet of gas, which is seen as a priority project to help alleviate electricity shortages in Namibia.

“Commercially, technically the project remains one that the government supports fully, except for the fact that government’s 44 percent share of the project is now unaffordable to us,” he said, adding that new partners were being sought in the market on a fully private equity basis.

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