Local Economic Developments and Performance
In an environment of improving commodity prices, the preliminary National Accounts show that mining was one of the few sectors to post positive growth with the highest percentage of real value added as compared to other sectors. The mining sector grew by 12.2% in 2017 and contributed 12.2% to GDP compared to a contraction of 5.8% and GDP contribution of 12% in 2016.
The main drivers of growth for the period in review was improved output of diamonds, uranium and gold. Despite persistently low uranium prices throughout 2017, uranium production increased by 22% in 2017 due additional output from the new Husab uranium mine. Namibia’s gold production outperformed output in 2016, particularly from better than expected ore grades mined from B2Gold’s Otjikoto gold mine. Zinc concentrate production increased by 20.86%, while lead concentrate and refined zinc decreased by 6.37% and 1.42% respectively in 2017.
The Chamber expects continued growth in the mining sector largely owing to an improvement in commodity prices in 2017 and the optimistic outlook going forward. In particular, optimism is driven by escalating demand for electric vehicle components and what has recently been termed “battery minerals” which consist of lithium, graphite, nickel and cobalt among has kick started exploration activity in Namibia.
Unfortunately, however, the persistently low uranium price continues to undermine the sustainability of uranium mines, while the development of significant projects are pending market recovery.
Fixed Investment & Exploration
Fixed investment by the sector increased from N$3.46 billion in 2016 to N$5.73 billion in 2017. The uptick is an indication of renewed confidence in the sector as operations position themselves to benefit from improving market conditions.
Similarly, it comes as no surprise then, that exploration expenditure has seen a positive trend since 2015, with total exploration by mining operations and exploration companies increasing from N$528 million in 2016 to N$ 562 million in 2017. What is most notable, however, is expenditure undertaken by exploration companies alone, which spiked from N$99 million in 2016 to N$303 million in 2017, representing an increase of 204%. A large proportion of these projects are likely to enter mine development in the near term.
Skills Development and Employment
Expenditure on training and skills development also increased substantially from N$82.8 million in 2016 to N$184.9 million in 2017.In 2017, mining and exploration companies collectively employed 9,643 people in permanent positions. Total employment by the sector, which includes permanent, temporary positions and contractors increased from 15,673 in 2016 to 16,905 in 2017.
Chamber statistics show that members paid out N$3.66 billion in corporate taxes and royalties and N$113.2 million in export levies in 2017. Furthermore, Government received N$817 million as PAYE. These figures exclude dividends accruing to Government from operations in which they are shareholders. Although the sector’s contribution to the fiscus is small in comparison to main sources of state income, such as VAT receipts, it remains an important stream of Government revenue. The industry also makes large contributions to foreign revenue and accounts for approximately 50% of the country’s exports. Mining contribution to taxes and overall economic growth is expected to increase in the near future from the combined impacts of smaller projects as well as the ramping up of Husab mine.