First lady’s foundation gets stake in uranium mine
First Lady, Monica Geingos’ One Economy Foundation has secured a 5 percent stake in Bannerman Mining Resources (Namibia), which is developing the Etango uranium project.
Bannerman Managing Director, Werner Ewald, told the Windhoek Observer that the development gives the Namibia Stock Exchange (NSX) listed exploration and development company, a better chance of obtaining a five-year Mineral Deposit Retention Licence.
On 5 September 2016, Bannerman submitted an application for a five-year Mineral Deposit Retention Licence, and part of the requirements, in addition to the standard renewal terms and conditions, included a proposal for local ownership, the employment of historically disadvantaged Namibians and a broader corporate social responsibility plan.
Ewald said the company will now wait to hear from the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) on the next step, since the 5 percent local ownership was the only stumbling block for the company to obtain the licence and take the Etango project to the next stage.
He, however, noted that the depressed uranium prices globally posed another challenge, adding that even if the licence is approved; the company would still wait until the prices improved to take the Etango project further.
Uranium spot prices have remained depressed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, hovering above US$25 per pound at the beginning of the month.
The retention licence allows for activities such as intensive exploration, research and other development activities, which are required to demonstrate the economic viability of a mining activity.
It is also an intermediate licence, nestled between an exploration licence and a mining licence.
Ewald said RMB Namibia was engaged by Bannerman in August 2016, to conduct a process to identify both charitable and financial investors in the Etango Project, culminating in the partnership with the One Economy Foundation.
“Local ownership is a key pillar of Bannerman’s corporate social responsibility in Namibia, and a vital means of addressing the Government of Namibia’s Harambee Prosperity Plan and its aim to eradicate poverty,” he said.
Under the terms of the agreement, Bannerman Mining Resources will issue 5 percent of its ordinary share capital to the One Economy Foundation for par value.
The One Economy Foundation will be loan-carried for all future project expenditure, including preconstruction and development expenditure, with a proportion of future dividends used to repay the loan, and the balance providing cash to fund the foundation’s activities.
“Since 2006, Bannerman has invested N$600 million developing its Etango Project, so a 5 percent shareholding has an immediate and substantial value,” Ewald said.
“By providing this shareholding, at par value (effectively free), Bannerman is demonstrating its strong endorsement and belief in the One Economy Foundation, and what it can achieve in the longer term.”
“Once developed, Etango will be a very large and long-life mine, thus providing the foundation with an opportunity for a long-term source of income, to implement sustainable social development projects that we all feel passionate about.”
One Economy Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Uajorokisa Akwenye, said the transaction ensures that the foundation complies with its stated objective of outliving its founders, and remaining a key non-profit that is focused on addressing poverty and social inequalities, regardless of the individuals at its helm.
“We are optimistic and look forward to the partnership with Bannerman Resources,” said Akwenye.
Xwama restaurant owner, Twapewa Kadhikwa, was appointed as a director of Bannerman Mining Resources (Namibia) in December, after the resignation of the first lady, who had served as a company director since 2010.
Etango is one of the country’s largest undeveloped uranium deposits, with declared ore reserves of 303 million tons, containing 130 million pounds of U3O8, while the recently commissioned Husab Mine deposit is much larger, with 320 million pounds of U3O8.