WINDHOEK – The Ministry of Mines and Energy expects the Rössing Uranium Mine to continue operating under its existing and planned programs until otherwise informed by the board of directors or management of Rössing Uranium Limited. This is according to a statement issued late last week by ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Simeon Negumbo, who noted that the mines ministry has been inundated with questions over the reported sale of the Rössing Uranium Mine to China National Uranium Corporation Limited.
“The sale is a private share transaction between the two parties and as reported in the media, the transaction is subject to certain government approvals. Amongst the authorities to approve the transaction is the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Namibian Competition Commission,” read Negumbo’s statement.
He pointed out that, in fact, in 2017 government has been informed of the negotiations between Rio Tinto and China National Uranium Corporation Limited for the purchase of the Rio Tinto shares.
However, Negumbo emphasised that the Ministry of Mines and Energy has not yet received the agreement and can therefore not comment or express itself on the content and its extent.
“The ministry can furthermore not speculate on any conditions that may be imposed on the transaction until it has studied the agreement and subjected it to the relevant laws. Where it is required by law, or within reasonable public interest and expectations to make further announcements, the ministry will endeavour to publish such information accordingly,” Negumbo stated.
Global mining giant, Rio Tinto, decided some years ago to divest its interest from energy minerals, particularly from the coal and uranium businesses, including the Rössing Uranium Mine, which is the longest running and one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world.
The Namibian government owns 3.42 percent and the other shareholders, Iranian Foreign Investment Company (15.29 percent), Industrial Development Company (IDC) of South Africa (10.22 percent) and the other minority shareholders (2.45 percent) have been aware of Rio Tinto’s intention to sell its 68.62 percent interest in Rössing Uranium Limited, and to exit the business.
“Rössing Uranium Limited (the company or the mine) is not entirely being sold to the China National Uranium Corporation Limited as the reports appear to imply. If Rio Tinto’s shares are sold, the other shareholders mentioned above will still be part owners of the company,” said Negumbo.
State-owned mining company, Epangelo Mining, las week told New Era it is in fact interested in increasing government’s three percent stake in Rössing Uranium. Epangelo made a bid in 2017 to buy a 10 percent stake owned by IDC in Rössing but did not get approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic/Financial Affairs to pursue this deal.
Epangelo has also admitted that while it does not have financial resources to buy all or some of the Rio Tinto shares in Rössing Uranium, it is capable of mobilising such resources, should an opportunity arise and should the project be profitable.