Swakop Uranium offers to steer second Erongo desalination plant to alleviate water shortages
By Adolf Kaure.
Swakop Uranium’s executive vice president of mining operations, Irvinne Simataa said that another desalination plant is needed in the Erongo Region to mitigate ongoing water constraints.
Speaking at a recent engagement with Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Simataa said that the current provision of water resources are not only inadeqaute for residents, local municipalities, but also for industries like mines.
“What tends to happen and what is a year on year occurrence is that when this already stretched water resources are challenged by natural calamities such as the sulphur blooms that happen in the ocean. We then tend to make decisions among ourselves, decisions about the people and the industry to the point where industries have to decide to shut businesses.”
“For Swakop Uranium particularly, of course other businesses will not be different. But for our business, we definitely take the biggest hit,” he said.
Swakop Uranium produced 4000 tonnes of uranium in 2022. From that production, it would have been 4 00 tonnes. However, the mine lost 39 days (20 days in December) in total in production time in 2022. Simaata attributes this to water constraints.
“We literally did not have any production for the month of December purely because of the unavailability of water.”
“Now, this only reflects the current situation for the current operations. Now for Swakop Uranium, we are thinking that the $291 million investment that we want to put into our business would demand an additional 3000 million cubes of water.”
“That would take our demand of water from 8000 million cubes of water to about 11,000 million cubes of water. At the moment, we account for about 65% to 75% of the water requirement in the region. So, that would tip the scale, in terms of that requirement.”
“The challenge that we have is very obvious to us. There is a necessity to increase the capacity of water production in this particular region,” said Simataa.
According to an assessment made by Swakop Uranium and supported by the Namibia Chamber of Mines (CoM) as well as the general industry in the Erongo Region, the government’s plan to build a second desalination plant should be accelerated.
He stated that Swakop Uranium would present an unsolicited offer as an investment to build, operate and transfer to the owners, due to the impact the water inavailability has had on Swakop Uranium.
“The idea being that we would want the project fast-tracked to mitigate our business risks. However, we do not have the intentions to operate the desalination plant. We are in the business of mining and we intend to mitigate our risk from that perspective.”
“Therefore, we have submitted our proposal where we are willing to join the venture with the government to fast track the wheels for this critical and important project for the region.”
“Where we are at the moment, the availability of water has become a point wherein our commitment to the board and our commitment to make this business profitable is contingent on us mitigating that particular risk,” he said.
In response, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila noted the water constraint, saying it is part of the government’s responsibility to ensure that a conducive environment is created for investors to sustain their investments and grow them, so that Namibia can also benefit from that.
“You have also intidicated that the government has been making efforts to implement a desalination project at the coast to ensure that there is a supply of water.”
“Those efforts are continuing. I am happy to hear that this proposal that you shared with me has been shared with the relevant stakeholders in the government and I have no doubt that it is receiving attention,” she said.
President Hage Geingob recently shifted the investment board from the Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation investment hub to the Presidency to ensure that the needs of investors are responded to efficiently and effectively.
“There is a dynamic team of young men and women that is working hard to ensure that the dream of Namibia becoming an investment hub will become realized.”
“Together with the line ministries – that is the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform as well as NamWater, we will be working together to look at ways to realise the security of water supply to the industry,” said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The Prime Minister promised to attend to the matter upon her return to Windhoek.
“What is important is the security of water supply not only to yourselves but to others that need it so that we do not constrain the growth of businesses here.” she said.
Currently, the Erongo Desalination plant also known as the Orano Desalination Plant operates near Wlotzkasbaken to provide water for Orano‘s Trekopje Mine as well as the region.