When speaking at a recent panel discussion on governance on natural resources in Windhoek, the Executive Director of the Ministry of Mines and Energy Bryan Eiseb said Namibia’s laws around its natural resources are too outdated.
“If you do a survey of the laws that the Ministry of Mines administers, predominantly the Minerals Act and the Petroleum Actare indeed very old laws,” Eiseb said.
The Petroleum Act, known as the exploration and production act, was passed in 1991 and the Minerals Act 1992 which is the prospecting and mining act.
The clarification Eiseb provides is that at the turn of Namibia’s independenceforced the government to pass laws that ensured that the Namibians stay the owners of the minerals and resources concerned.
The downside is that this resulted in, between 1990 and now, no amendments or serious adjustments being taken in order to address the changing economic climates.
“This is the phase we [Namibia] finds itself in and we are accelerating this process of amending these laws.”
Eiseb pointed towards the truest ownership aspect of the minerals in the country adding that citizens do not own said resources.”This is a fallacy that you have to identify. This is where the Ministry’s beneficiatian strategy comes into play,” Eiseb said.
The beneficiatian strategy is a joint strategy document between the ministry of industrialisation and trade and the ministry of mines and energy that was released in 2021.
Beneficiation is the process that includes extraction, refinement, processing and commercialisation to an end user. This is a holistic process that aims to establish manufacturing sectors that are aligned with the extractive industries like mining and oil. This is also for the agricultural sector.
According to the strategy – known as the Mineral Beneficiation Strategy(MBS) – Namibia has an extensive and diverse mineral endowment and the mineral industry has been and remains an integral part of the Namibian economy.
The sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product has been on the rise since 1990 and it contributed about 9% and accounted for approximately 50% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings in recent years.
Beside these contributions, Namibia’s mineral endowment makes it a good candidate for further processing of minerals since the global demand for minerals is growing much broader over the years to include minerals used in a range of conventional and emerging high technology applications.
Supporting the MBS is the Growth At Home Strategy, according to Eiseb.
“This is to ensure that when we speak of beneficiation that you also imply that the jobs created are meant first for the Namibian,”Eiseb said.
“This would mean that you are at least feeding 10 Namibians per every worker who benefits through work. It is that multiplier effect that you are looking for.”
The perception of the country being an exporter of raw materials and unprocessed materials has been strong.
A 2017 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on the beneficiation approach for the country outlines that this only applies to the mining industry in principle.
“There are a host of active mining and exploration activities, with many of them carrying out significant value addition to extracted materials. Examples of these are the cutting and polishing of diamonds, production of uranium oxide from uranium ore, zinc refining at Rosh Pinah, and copper cathode production,” the report outlines.
On the other hand the supply and production of affordable electricity was predicted to be a vital point back in 2017.
The report said that a number of further beneficiation opportunities are also identified such as steelmaking and gold refining.
This points to the fact that even though there is potential for these operations, the commercial viability and sustainability of each prospective beneficiation activity needs to be examined within its context to determine whether it should be pursued.