Namdeb contributed in excess of N$3b to the government in royalties, dividends and taxes, during the last financial year – the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, told The Villager.
Her revelations come as the entity prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary in November this year.
Namdeb, which is one of the very successful Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the country, is a 50/50 venture between Government and DebMarine.
Zaamwani-Kamwi also revealed that the company, which is a 50/50 venture between Government and DebMarine, has also set sights on expanding its onshore operations to 2050 depending on the availability of capital. This Vision 2050 is meant to stretch the company’s operations on land further.
She however maintained that a lot of work still needs to be done and that significant capital investment will be required to advance the exploration and tool development efforts.
Said Zaamwani-Kamwi; “We find ourselves in an environment characterised by capital constraints and taking into consideration the long term return nature of these investments, we will have to work hard and make a considerable amount of effort for motivating long term capital investments. This is however a challenge we are well prepared to tackle”.
While the company has experienced difficult operating conditions because of recurrent labour disputes in the past three years, Zaamwani-Kamwi also told The Villager that Namdeb contributed one in every five dollars accrued from exports in the lucrative mining sector which contributes close to 15% to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the country.
“In 2013, the partnership (DebMarine and Namdeb) contributed in excess of N$3bn to the Government by way of royalties, taxes and dividends. Furthermore, the partnership contributed one in every five Namibian Dollars of foreign earnings and adds more to the GDP of Namibia than all the other mining companies combined,” Zaamwani Kamwi said.
She however admitted that constant labour disputes which have seen the company losing in excess of N$1m on a daily basis during the strike have been a major setback to the operations of the company. She expressed her wish for a better future away from the labour disputes.
“Over the last four years, we have experienced few wage disputes leading to two industrial actions and by their very nature industrial actions are loose-loose outcomes and tend to set us back somewhat. In the aftermath of an industrial action, valuable time and efforts are put into getting the business back where it should have been. While we do recognize our employees’ rights to strike over issues of wages and benefits, it is best if demands are based on prevailing economic realities as guided by annual inflation and what is fair and appropriate in the circumstances,’’ she said.
Skill shortages and employee relations
A rather upbeat Zaamwani Kamwi also concurred that the diamond industry in the country is facing stiff competition from other players worldwide, in attracting the relevant skills needed for the industry. This she added has cultivated the need for the company to invest in education so as to improve the availability of skills in the market.
“The global war for talent and the stiff attraction and retention competition in a small market like Namibia leads to poaching and hence increased cost of employment. While we continue to invest hugely in training and development, one needs a balance between qualifications and experience to enable the more experienced employees to mentor and coach the young ones,” Zaamwani-Kamwi said adding that Namdeb has nevertheless shown resilience in the face of adversity and both the senior management and the employees has emerged as a stronger team.
She added that as part of ploughing back into the economy, Namdeb has also invested in a wide range of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, including combating HIV and Aids as well as environmental management and education.
On the environmental front, according to the Namdeb MD, has led the way with various environmental management and monitoring programmes, many of which are specialist studies that contribute to the local and national knowledge base. She maintained that Namdeb has one of the best Environmental Management and Rehabilitation Programmes in place that ensures that mined out areas are restored as close as possible to their original state, post mining operations.
She further revealed that Namdeb pioneered one of the most critical employee wellness programmes in the country.
“Namdeb is the first Company in Namibia to provide antiretroviral treatment to employees living with HIV/Aids and their life partners and continues to provide treatment and support to all affected employees and their partners,” Zaamwani-Kamwi said.
Overall, the joint venture has yielded various benefits for the masses according to the MD. This she said, ranges from direct and indirect contribution to the education sector, infrastructure development, corporate social investment and employment creation.
“Namdeb has done a lot particularly in the field of training and talent development over the years. We have robust training programmes and those who have gone through them can testify how beneficial these have been. I am proud to say that, many influential Namibian men and women currently occupying key positions within various Namibian industries are beneficiaries of our skills development programmes. We continue offering bursaries externally as well as internally and encourage employees through the self-study programmes to contribute towards knowledge and skills,” Zaamwani Kamwi said.
While diamond mining is a key economic activity, Zaamwani-Kamwi maintained that she is pleased with the fact that the country has over the years diversified its economic activities and therefore reduced its reliance on diamond revenue.
She was, however quick to point to the fact that, with diamonds being a high valued product, its contribution to the GDP and revenue continues to be significant, hence whenever there are challenges within the diamonds sector, these are felt across the country.
“In a volatile global economic environment, demand is driven by consumer sentiments and as we saw some of our challenges including, during the 2008 global economic recession, lack of consumer demand can almost drive a business to bankruptcy as it happened to many other businesses during that time. At Namdeb, we responded swiftly to the crisis by employing a multifaceted approach to reduce the impacts,” Zaamwani-Kamwi
There are other internal challenges related to mining a finite resource as one has to constantly ensure that unit cost remain low in order mine the remaining ore-body profitably.
The Joint Venture maintained that it has done that successfully over the years through innovation and continuous business improvement. This due to the fact that, as the land deposits were depleted in the Southern Coastal Mines (SCM) – the mainstay of Namdeb’s operations – the company, according to the MD, had to find innovative ways to access the resource in the inshore and inner-shelf.
“We have done this successfully since 1997 through accretion and seawall construction. Today, most of the mining blocks within the SCM come from accreted areas,” Zaamwani-Kamwi said.
She concluded that, in the quest for innovation and sustainability towards 2050 and beyond, Namdeb continues to investigate new mining areas and technologies which will extend the life of the mine and ensure that the company continues to play a leading role in sustaining Namibia’s economy.