Namibian Uranium Not Headed for Nationalization


"The world's fourth-largest uranium producer looks to mining for higher employment rates."

Reuters, James Regan

An Australian company exploring for uranium in Namibia said it did not believe the African country was heading toward nationalizing its mining industry after proposing more state control over the sector.

"We see this simply as participation, not nationalization," Bannerman Resources Chief Executive Len Jubber told Reuters.

Namibia has worried investors with a recent decision to grant future rights to strategic minerals to a state company, even though it has sought to assure the sector the new policy will not apply to existing mining and exploration licenses or lead to nationalization.

The decision raised concerns within Namibia's largely private and foreign-owned mining industry of a shift to state control of the sector, a theme also raised in neighboring South Africa by a faction of the African National Congress (ANC).

A global mining boom that's led to huge increases in profits has mine-dependent economies questioning whether enough of the revenue is finding its way public coffers for use to improve social services.

Namibia is trying to reduce its current unemployment rate of around 50% to 4% within three years.

Some of the countries are concerned that "two-speed economies" brought on by the boom were creating nations of haves and have-nots.

On April 20, the Namibian Minister for Mines and Energy Isak Katali made comments in the Namibian parliament regarding the proposed rights of state-owned mining company, Epangelo Mining Company (Pty) Ltd, in the development of minerals projects for certain "strategic minerals"—uranium, copper, gold, coal, diamonds and rare earth metals.

Katali this week issued a clarification of his comments, saying ownership of existing exploration licenses wouldn't be affected by the proposed mineral policy changes.

Jubber said he welcomed greater interest by Namibia in investing in future minerals projects, noting the country was already the world's fourth-largest producer of uranium.

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