Mining is the single largest contributor to the economy of Namibia, accounting for a quarter of the revenue generated in the country. Although a variety of minerals are mined including copper, lead, zinc, gold, uranium, etc., most of the mineral wealth comes from diamond mining.
The earliest gold discoveries within the country happened around 1899, but the early mining efforts were never started on a large-scale due to generally low valued ores. Efforts to mine again started during the Great Depression, but with limited value to the ores there was little attempt to continue mining. Through history, the gold present in Namibia has been relatively ignored as the real money was made by mining the many underground diamond deposits.
Navachab Gold Mine
About 25 years ago, a large open-pit mining operation began operation in northwestern Namibia just outside of the town of Karibib. Named the Navachab Gold Mine, it is currently the only active gold mining operation within the country. It is the major gold producer for the country.
The mine currently employs around 600 workers, and is operated by AngloGold. Over the past decade, the output of the mine has been in the range of 65,000 to 80,000 troy ounces of gold.
As mining technologies are developed, and the ability to profitably mine gold from low-grade ores improves, more interest is being given to the various mineral deposits in Namibia.
New Mines and Future Development
In recent years, some new gold mines have come into production. The Otjikoto Gold Mine began operations in 2014, and is anticipating coming into full operation toward the end of 2015. It is operated by B2Gold, and is located roughly 300 kilometers north of the Navachab Mine. Early drilling has shown ores at Otjikoto to be of similar value and consistency to the Navachab Mine.
The extent of these low-grade gold ores seems to be of much interest for exploration companies, as prospecting continues in this part of Namibia. Auryx Gold Corp. is one company that has invested heavily in future exploration in western Namibia.
Helio Resources is another company that is investing heavily in exploration, primarily searching these similar geological deposits that extend out from the Navachab Mine.
While gold mining is anticipated to grow in the coming years, diamonds still remain the largest contributor to the economy of Namibia. Globally, it ranks as the 8th leading producer of gem-grade diamonds in the world.
Diamonds come from a variety of sources. The Orange River is one of the best-known areas where diamonds occur within the ancient river terraces. The River separates Namibia and South Africa, and disputes over the borders and rights to the diamond deposits along the Orange River have limited some mining efforts.
There are also beach sources along the shores with the Atlantic Ocean, and considerable diamond mining is even done offshore at various rich marine deposits found on the floor of the ocean. Mining these sources takes considerable capital investment.
The largest companies currently mining for diamonds in Namibia includes Nambed (join venture with DeBeers and the Namibia government) and Afri-Can Marine Diamonds.
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