"We work with approximately 80% of the active players in the Namibian mining industry."

Fabian Shaanika

SECTOR LEAD: MINING AND NATURAL RESOURCES, RAND MERCHANT BANK (RMB) NAMIBIA

July 05, 2021

What role does RMB Namibia play in the Namibian mining industry?

RMB Namibia is a subsidiary of RMB, which is part of the FirstRand Group of companies with headquarters in South Africa. Through this affiliation, we are one of the largest financial institutions in Africa. RMB Corporate & Investment Banking has been in existence in Namibia since 2014. We work with approximately 80% of the active players in the Namibian mining industry.

How significant is the mining industry to the Namibian economy?

Namibia is a renowned mining jurisdiction, home to some of the world’s largest uranium deposits, and is the world’s largest producer of marine diamonds. Namibia relies on the industry for economic growth as it contributes approximately 10% to the country’s GDP. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and resulting restrictions, mining’s contribution to Namibia’s GDP contracted by about 12% over the past year. Although mining was classified as a critical activity and some operations were allowed to continue at minimal levels, other operations went into care and maintenance. Namibia has a diverse mix of mining operations, including base metals, precious metals, and uranium.

There are ongoing efforts to develop local beneficiation. In the diamond industry there has been an enormous drive to promote the local cutting and polishing industry. Today, 15% of the diamond production in Namibia gets handled by a local Namibian company. Although still at feasibility stage, there are plans to increase the amount of locally refined zinc with the possible conversion of a zinc refinery plant in Namibia.

What is hindering the Namibian mining industry’s growth?

There is room for improvement in how exploration licenses are allocated. Currently, there is a complete moratorium on issuing new licenses within Namibia, which will only be removed in August this year. It was put in place because the Ministry saw a need for improvement in the licensing process and established a new policy and regulatory frameworks.  By the end of 2021, we will have a positive policy outcome and (hopefully) a more conducive environment. The availability and quality of geological and geophysical data could also improve. Currently, the Geological Survey of Namibia hosts and owns the geological data sets. This information should be easily accessible to the scientific and mining fraternity and should be free (or subsidised) to encourage exploration investment.

Most investors consider Namibia an excellent mining jurisdiction, but comments on the lack of required technical skills prevail. To address this issue, we allow more expats to work within the country. The permits to work, of course, should be accompanied with an obligation to transfer skills to Namibians.

How is RMB assessing these investment opportunities in the green energy space?

There are currently several projects at various stages to supply the increasing demand for minerals feeding into the battery and electrification space.

Namibia is an importer of power but there are many renewable energy projects either in construction or in the feasibility phase to get access to power for mining operations. In addition, the country’s geographical location makes it the perfect candidate for both solar and wind opportunities. As a bank, RMB is actively engaging with mining operations to structure these projects to unlock their full potential.  

What is RMB’s strategy to facilitate growth over the next three years?  

Our strategy is to see our clients through current challenges, and we have adopted the approach to be a partner rather than a service provider. Therefore, we need to continuously look at finding novel solutions for the funding requirements of our clients. We pride ourselves in being a solutionist bank and adapting to our clients' times and challenges. We continue to ensure that we have the internal capabilities of people with solid industry backgrounds to form strong partnerships with our clients and offer them innovative solutions to their requirements.

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