Nam produces 13m diamond carats

Namibia has produced 13 million carats of unpolished diamonds since 1994 to date, former Namdeb Chief Executive Officer, Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, revealed to The Villager’s sister publication, Prime Focus Magazine.

The diamonds are worth approximately N$35,321,000,000.00 at the current exchange rate of N$ today. Zaamwani-Kamwi revealed that Namdeb has been producing an average of 670 000 carats annually, despite facing challenges during the world economic turmoil of 2008.

According to the Chamber of Mines’ overview, the diamond sub-sector flourished in 2014, posting a growth of 11.1% in real value added, and posting record production levels. This growth was not enough to offset the contractions posted by uranium and other mining and quarrying activities, which contracted by 9.9% and 42.7%, respectively.

Preliminary statistics produced from the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) show that the mining sector made a direct contribution of 13 per cent to GDP in 2014, up from 12.6 per cent in 2013.

The national accounts have created new categories for mining, namely diamonds, uranium, metal ores and other mining and quarrying. Previously, mining consisted of two categories only, being diamonds and other mining. In real terms, the mining industry contracted by 4.6%.

The Chamber predicts that the direct contribution by mining will increase to 17% by 2017/18. Their statistics also show that Namibia’s mining industry generated revenue of N$21.61 billion in 2014, a 3.25 per cent increase from 2013, which totalled N$20.93 billion.

“Namdeb was able to create new mines, such as the recently-inaugurated Sendlingsdrif mine, build new processing plants, as well as engaged the development of new technology and mining methods. The mine plan now goes to 2031, but the vision is to take Namdeb’s life of mine to 2050 and beyond,” Zaamwani-Kamwi noted.

She added that since the establishment of Namdeb, the focus has not only been on technological development, but they also made tremendous efforts to make employees, the human gems, take full ownership of Namdeb. “In doing so, the company has made tremendous efforts to become the employer of choice and continue to give due recognition to our human gems as we cannot operate the world’s leading alluvial diamond-mining company without world-class skills and commitment from all employees,” she said.

Namdeb has for a long time been doing business on the balanced scorecard methodology, and this ensures that it tracks its progress and applies a disciplined execution methodology, with a narrowed focus on what is most important and on leading outcomes or behaviours and shared accountability.

The company also benefits from functional governance processes as well as committed and dedicated shareholders, management and employees, which are conducive to alignment and transparency.

She further revealed that the gender factor was largely irrelevant at Namdeb. She has been fortunate to work with many experienced and dedicated men and women, who understand that successful mining is about teamwork, and not gender-based roles.

When Namdeb was formed 21 years ago, it was expected to grow and become an important global player in the diamond industry. In addition, it was to continue being the leading national provider of revenue, foreign earnings and setting benchmarks in respect of alluvial diamond exploration and mining. Namdeb reports that these expectations were exceeded.

The successful partnership between the Republic of Namibia and De Beers contributed immensely to its shareholders and to Namibia. It has clearly demonstrated that Government and private enterprise can do business, which is mutually beneficial. As a result of this partnership, Namibia has gained access to important research and development (R&D) as well as technical, mining and marketing skills and experience. Indirect or direct contributions to the education sector, infrastructural development, corporate social investments and employment-creation are just a few areas which derive benefit from this joint venture. 

“Namdeb has challenges related to mining a finite resource, and one has to constantly ensure that unit costs remain low so that you can profitably mine the remaining ore body. This has been done successfully over the years through innovation and continuous business improvement,” Zaamwani-Kamwi added.

Over the past few years, Namdeb has also experienced wage disputes, leading to two industrial actions. These have been trying times, as industrial action by its very nature results in a lose-lose outcome, which tends to set the company back. Another key challenge is that of the global war for talent, and the stiff attraction and retention competition in a small market like Namibia.

“Needless to say, the Namdeb employees have always shown resilience in the face of adversity, and throughout these challenges, we have emerged a stronger team, united towards the common vision of ensuring that the company continues being the pride of Namibia’s mining to 2050 and beyond,” she beamed.

Although the mining sector contracted in real terms, significant investments by the industry continued to occur in 2014. Chamber statistics show that fixed investments doubled from N$8.5 billion in 2013 to N$17.26 billion in 2014.

The world’s number one diamond producer, De Beers, works with the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) through Namdeb Holdings in a 50:50 joint venture, producing some of the world’s finest gem diamonds. Namdeb’s output increasingly comes from under the sea, thanks to the technical expertise of Debmarine Namibia.

Further value-addition is boosted by about 11 diamond-cutting and manufacturing factories which utilise about 16% of diamond production by Namdeb Holdings. Check the full interview with Zaamwani-Kamwi in the current edition of the Prime Focus available in local outlets