Interview with John Sisay on Mining Industry Trends in Namibia

John Sisay is the CEO of Ongopolo Mining Limited and has over 20 years of experience working for some of the largest global and regional players, including De Beers.

How does the recent decision to ban the export of unprocessed critical minerals affect Namibia’s mining industry and economy? 

Namibia’s recent decision to prohibit the export of raw minerals is a direct response to the growing global demand for metals essential in clean energy technologies. To meet this demand, we need to ensure a steady supply, and the local economy should be placed at the center of production

The legislation is taking us in the right direction.  It’s a big shift for the country, moving from just exporting minerals to actively producing them – a major industry transformation. It’s time for mining operations to move past just depleting resources and start actively participating in fostering local economic growth and ensuring long-term sustainability.

The recent ban on unprocessed critical materials achieves just that – it keeps a part of the growth here at home and supports our local economy. This encourages investments and attracts entrepreneurs looking to build and expand processing facilities. It strengthens our supply chain and boosts local processing activities, which significantly improves the local economy while ensuring a stable production base for global demand.

It’s an important shift, not just locally, but on a global scale as well. The policy finds a clever way to harmonize local and global interests, acknowledging the advantages of having a strong and dependable local mining sector. It’s a step in the right direction.

What needs to happen to improve the sector’s sustainability and impact?

With the world’s growing concern for sustainable development, our industry must adapt. A key part of this is giving more attention to our local communities. How can we achieve this? By establishing a robust local supply chain. It is important to understand that without a healthy local economy, neither global demand can be met, nor can sustainable practices be introduced.

I believe the most crucial aspect is tapping into the expertise of local communities. Namibians have a long history of working in mining operations and possess valuable skills and insights into what matters. Equally vital is fostering an environment where skills, education, and healthcare are given top priority. Traditionally, these aspects have not received the attention they should have in mining operations.

It’s time for us all to distance the industry from certain negative connotations and recognize that we are an integral part of an economic and social ecosystem. We must strive for sustainability, and be collectively responsible for making positive contributions to local communities and their economies.

As an industry we can all take practical steps, partnering with communities to share best practices, provide financial backing for job creation, and invest in the training and skills development of local workers. Similarly, we must place greater emphasis on the well-being of the environment surrounding the mines. We must ask ourselves: what can be done to minimize impacts on the immediate setting and its people and, more broadly, the overall agenda for sustainability?

To achieve this, we believe in a new sectoral dialogue, one that asks how to create responsible extractive strategies. Strategies that work in concert with neighboring communities and host nations, which satisfy local developmental needs and support national and international environmental goals.

What steps can the government take to ensure that mineral beneficiation becomes a tangible reality?

 It is fundamental to any government’s mandate to be promoting and develop the right supply chain models and policies that realize authentic mineral beneficiation in-country.  There is naturally a process to this, necessarily balancing what is realistically achievable now, with what measures must be taken to arrive at the best outcome in the future.   It is about creating an enabling environment where beneficiation is not just a concept, but a commercial proposition that fosters innovation and encourages active investment.

Turning to investment, governments that establish favorable conditions, that encourage businesses to invest, inevitably see results, making theirs a destination preferable to others with less accessible regimes. Tax incentives are one part of the equation that will attract businesses and encourage participation, but investing in infrastructure is vital.

Transportation links, reliable and ideally renewable power supplies, and water resource management are as important, perhaps even more so, as incentives The government stands to benefit significantly from the mining industry, and it is in their best interests to play an active role in developing this infrastructure.

Access to Government-backed loan programs, or partnerships with financial institutions, would also open capital for beneficiation projects locally and make local participation a reality. Finally, let us not forget the importance of a skilled workforce and we want to actively work with the relevant institutions to create training programs that are related to the workforce needs now and in the future.

Why are more mining investors showing interest in Namibia?

The appeal of Namibia to mining investors is becoming more and more apparent.  Several factors are aligning here – stable politics, a welcoming investment environment, and a wealth of untapped minerals.

Moreover, the Namibian government’s dedication to vigilant oversight of mining activities, ensuring their compliance with sustainable mining regulations, fosters confidence within the investment community.

Namibia’s dependable energy supply sets it apart from neighboring mining nations, positioning it as a prime example of how a modern mining operation should function. Global awareness of this opportunity situated along the South African coast is growing, giving rise to a competitive landscape for those who take prompt action.

Why are sustainable mining practices important in modern mining, and what are the practical steps to incorporate them?

Sustainable mining is not just a trend; it’s the very foundation of our future.

It translates to practices that respect and preserve the environment while contributing positively to communities. Practically, this involves embracing technologies that reduce environmental impact, such as water recycling and energy-efficient processes. It means going beyond compliance to actively rehabilitate mining sites, ensuring they return to their natural state.

Community engagement is key – understanding and addressing the needs of those who live around our operations. It’s about ensuring that as we extract value from the ground, we’re also planting the seeds for a sustainable future.

Why copper prices must be maintained at > $10,000/tn?

Maintaining copper prices above $10,000 per ton is not just beneficial; it’s imperative for the health and sustainability of the global copper industry. High prices drive investment, essential to meet the global demand for copper.  It’s about guaranteeing the financial sustainability of mining operations Robust copper prices are a lifeline for the economies of copper-producing nations like ours. They enable us to channel resources into sustainable mining practices and community development, fostering an industry that’s not just profitable but also responsible and future-proof.