Namibia: Skorpion Zinc to Halt Refinery Operations

VENDANTA Zinc International will shut down its Skorpion Zinc Mine (SZM) refinery at the Rosh Pinah mining settlement for six months at the end of October, to rebuild its depleted ore stocks.

Early this year, the mine also shut down its refinery following industrial action by Basil Read workers, which had put operations at the mine 14 days behind schedule, and had resulted in the depletion of ore stock piles.

Skorpion contracted Basil Read in 2017 to execute the Pit112 pushback project to extend the life of the mine until 2020.

Sources in the mining industry hinted that 1 500 jobs would be lost at the mine since it faces closure by October next year.

A source, who preferred anonymity, indicated that the looming job losses could be avoided if plans by Skorpion and Rosh Pinah Zinc Cooperation to jointly develop the Gergarub zinc sulphide deposit at the mining settlement come to fruition.

Sources hinted that implementation of the Gergarub project is being stalled by "power-play issues" between the parties.

In 2015, the parties had agreed to a joint venture partnership - 51% for Skorpion and 49% for Rosh Pinah - and accepted sharing the drilling cost based on the proportion of shares each party owned.

The Mineworkers' Union of Namibia (MUN) southern region chairperson, Shavuka Mbidhi, last week confirmed that the union and Skorpion had held negotiations and agreed that the 400 affected workers would receive full salaries during the refinery operations shutdown expected at the end of this month.

"The parties (union and Skorpion) have reached an agreement on the payment of workers' salaries during the production holiday. We are happy with the agreement," he said.

The unionist said for the government to protect the mineworkers' jobs, it should exert pressure on the two mining giants to accelerate their plans to jointly develop the Gergarub project.

Skorpion mine corporate affairs and sustainability manager Nora Ndopu did not respond to questions emailed to her last week on the matter.

The Skorpion mine is located about 25 kilometres north of the town of Rosh Pinah in southern Namibia. It is the eighth largest zinc mine in the world.

Skorpion mine is a flagship asset for the country's mining industry and comprises an open-pit mine and the refinery.

Email: luqman@namibian.com.na

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