December 19, 2003

Rossing uranium mine to close by 2007



The Rossing uranium mine, one of the biggest players in the country's economy, is expected to close down in 2007, the mine's management announced. The closure would result in the loss of more than 1.000 jobs and have a major impact on Namibia's export earnings, tax revenues and gross domestic product. In 2001, the mine contributed N$1 billion to the economy, which represented 2,5 per cent of the total gross domestic product (GDP), 20 per cent of value added to mining, and 10 per cent of total exports.

Rehabeam Hoveka, Manager for Business Services at Rossing, said that the mine was running at a loss that year because of the current uranium price, high costs and the continued strengthening of the Rand against the US dollar. "The current plans are to mine out the present pit which will be towards the end of 2007, after which the mine would close its operations," he said. But employees were told that unless significant improvements in the financial position of the mine were reached by mid-2004, the mine might need to consider closing down even earlier than 2007.

The mine currently employs 820 people and about 214 contractors. The number of contractors was already reduced from over 400 recently as a result of cost-cutting measures implemented at the mine. Other sectors set to suffer severely are suppliers and service providers. "We cannot forget that our employees also employ people at their homes. Closing down the mine would take away their purchasing power. The impact is going to be major," said Hoveka. Chairperson of the Rossing branch of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), Erich Beukes, said that, while the news did not come as a shock, it was still a "very emotional issue". He emphasised that the outlook was bleak as the majority of the unskilled, semi-skilled and mine-specific workers would have very limited opportunities for alternative employment. The majority of workers were very dependent on Rossing. He added that mine employees had gone through three retrenchment exercises previously. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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