By:Hertha Ekandjo and Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus
Mining Commissioner Isabella Chirchir said mining companies are not here to operate forever as the minerals are not infinite.
Chirchir was reacting to the news on the phased closure of Namibia’s largest gold mine in the country, B2Gold’s Otjikoto mine.
For the first two months of 2023, the gold miners in Namibia have made N$2,5 billion from the export of non-monetary gold, according to the country’s trade statistics from Namibia Statistics Agency.
The Otjikoto Mine is scaling down as it approaches the end of its lifespan due to the depletion of the gold reserves.
This is despite the mine capital expenditures totaling US$79 million (NS1,176 million) in 2022, primarily consisting of $35 million (N$521.2 million) for Wolfshag underground development.
While US$27 million (N$402 million) was spent on pre-stripping for the Otjikoto pit, US$12 million (N$179 million) in mobile equipment rebuilds and purchases, and US$5 million (N$74.5 million) for the national power grid connection line, the mine website read.
According to Chichir, the Chamber of Mines currently does not have figures of how many workers would face retrenchment, saying, “we do not have the numbers.”
The Otjikoto mine employs close to 1,000 workers.
On whether there are any prospects of the mine later reopening, or a merger with Osino Resources for the Twin hill project, Chirchir explained that the mine is conducting exploration to see if they will find more gold reserves to expand.
According to the company, the Otjikoto mine is expected to produce between 190,000 and 210,000 ounces of gold in 2023 at cash operating costs of between US$590 (N$8,785) and US$650 (N$9,679) per ounce and all-in sustaining costs of between US$1,080 (N$16,082)and US$1,140 (N$16,975) per ounce.
For 2023, Otjikoto is expected to process a total of 3,4 million tonnes of ore at an average grade of 1.87 g/t with a process gold recovery of 98.0%.
In the first half of 2023, the mine wrote that the processed ore will be sourced from the Otjikoto pit and the Wolfshag underground mine, supplemented by existing medium and high-grade ore stockpiles.
Otjikoto’s gold production is expected to be weighted approximately 60% to the second half of 2023 due to the timing of high grade ore mining from the Otjikoto pit and increased ore volumes from the Wolfshag underground mine.
“The anticipated decrease in Otjikoto’s all-in sustaining costs for 2023 reflects the benefits of processing higher grade ore from the Otjikoto pit and the Wolfshag underground mine in the second half of 2023,” the company said.
The mine closure will not only impact workers and fiscus but foreign reserves as gold is in the top five of what the country exports monthly.
“The composition of the export basket for the month of February 2023 mainly comprised minerals such as precious stones (diamonds), uranium, non monetary gold, and copper blisters. Fish was the only non-mineral product within the top five products exported,” NSA said.
Reflecting the country’s mineral dependence is, as the extractive industry dominates what the country sells to the outside world.
For February, non-monetary gold accounted for 9.1 percent of total exports for Namibia, the gold is solely destined to South Africa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org