The Windhoek Observer’s Chamwe Kaira (CK) asked Rössing Uranium’s new MD Richard Storrie (RS) about his appointment and the announcement by long term majority shareholder, Rio Tinto, to sell its stake to China National Uranium Corporation (CNUC) barely two months after Storrie joined the company.
CK: How have the workers and the trade union reacted to the announcement last week that China National Uranium Corporation will buy the majority stake in Rössing Uranium from Rio Tinto?
RS: We believe that China National Uranium Corporation (CNUC) offers the best possible future for Rössing, building on its strong and proud history.
CNUC was identified as a reputable and experienced operator which has the potential to invest long term in the Rössing business. It is a priority for me and the leadership team at Rössing to ensure that our people are kept up to date during the transition period.
Change can be unsettling, so it is vital that we all remain focussed on doing our jobs safely and that we support each other. I will do my best, along with the entire management team, to make myself available to answer any questions from our employees and to share information as and when it becomes available.
CK: Where you aware of the impending sale when you joined the company?
RS: Over the past few years, Rio Tinto has been reviewing and shaping its portfolio of assets across the world. The review concluded that it was in Rössing and Rio Tinto stakeholders’ best interests to find a new owner.
Transactions of this nature take time and negotiations have to be confidential, therefore it was not possible to inform our people before the binding agreement had been signed.
As soon as this had happened, we made it our priority to talk to our employees, contractors and other stakeholders. We believe that CNUC is well placed to take the business forward and invest in the future and long term growth of the asset.
CK: Why did you take up this challenge of becoming the new MD of Rössing Uranium?
RS: With over 20 years’ experience working for Rio Tinto and having worked as load and haul engineer here at Rössing before, I was considered an appropriate candidate to lead the mine. I have fond memories of my time here during my first assignment and look forward to contributing to the business again.
CK: The uranium industry is going through tough times at the moment. How do you hope to tackle this challenge and help keep Rössing going?
RS: Rössing’s focus has always been to be a safe, sustainable and competitive business. While the uranium market remains challenging for producers around the world, Rössing has over several years focused strongly on controlling costs and remaining competitive.
Since I arrived at Rössing, I have been impressed with the passion and commitment of everyone here to finding ways to implement cost-saving and production improvements in order to stay ahead, whatever happens with the global uranium market.
CK: How does it feel to come back to Namibia and lead Rössing and what are some of the fond memories you have of working at Rössing 20 years ago?
RS: It feels great to be back. I have very fond memories of my time here in the 90s: working at the mine, enjoying the stunning countryside with my young family and particularly because my son was born in Swakopmund.
CK: What are your immediate priorities as the new MD?
RS: For Rio Tinto and for Rössing, it is business as usual whilst we work towards completing the sale, which is expected in the first half of 2019. My priorities are the safety of all our people, the safe and productive operation of the mine and providing support to our highly experienced and committed team during the transition period.
CK: What is your view on the future of the price of spot uranium on the international market?
RS: I can’t predict the future. We will continue to work hard to implement cost-saving efforts and production improvements in order to stay ahead, whatever happens with the global uranium market.
CK: Briefly tell us about your family and hobbies.
RS: My wife, Bridget, is finishing her field studies for her PhD with University College London and will join me in Swakopmund in the New Year. My two daughters and son have all grown up and are in university in the UK. I used to play rugby and played a couple of games in Swakopmund when I was last here. But it’s been a while. I now play it safe and stick to just running to keep relatively fit.