Debmarine to invest N$100 million on new crawler

By IAfrica
In Namibia
Apr 9th, 2014
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WINDHOEK - Debmarine Namibia, a world leader in marine diamond exploration and mining technology, this week confirmed that it will invest N$100 million to acquire a second seabed crawler for the mv Mafuta mining vessel. 

The mv Mafuta, which is responsible for roughly 40 percent of Debmarine Namibia’s annual production, already has one crawler on board and according to the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Otto Shikongo, the second crawler will ensure that the vessel is able to operate efficiently even if one of the crawlers experiences technical problems.

“It is worth spending that amount (N$100 million) to mitigate the risk of the vessel not being in production,” explained Shikongo. The use of a seabed crawler is one of the reasons that the mv Mafuta is considered one of the largest and most technically advanced diamond mining vessels in the world. The crawlers, which are built by De Beers Marine, are track mounted with a hydraulically operated slewing boom with nozzle and are designed for a maximum submerged time of seven days. As Debmarine Namibia mines at water depths of 90 to 140 metres, the 285 tonne crawlers are ideal and are thus far the most advanced underwater mining machines.

Debmarine Namibia operates five diamond mining vessels namely Debmar Atlantic, Debmar Pacific, !Gariep, Grand Banks and the Mafuta. According to Shikongo the Mafuta and the Debmar Atlantic are collectively responsible for up to 60 percent of the company’s annual production. Debmarine Namibia employs two mining technologies, namely the airlift-drill and the crawler mining technology. These two technologies are applied to suit different ground conditions. During a presentation on Monday morning Shikongo emphasized the importance of the company’s employees. “It is with this in mind that the company puts significant emphasis on skills development through a wide range of programmes including bursaries, technical training, long-term trainees, self-study assistance, leadership development and safety awareness,”  Shikongo said.

He added that skills development is critical to Debmarine Namibia’s operations and that is why the company ensures that investment in the development of local talent empowers employees and communities to foster economic opportunities for Namibia in support of Vision 2030. Shikongo however expressed concern over the unavailability of specialized skills in the local market, noting that the opening of three new mines in the country this year will severely drain the already minimal skills pool.

In this regard Shikongo said the Namibianisation of the workforce is a key initiative that is driven at the highest level. At the beginning of January 2014, Namibians made up 80 percent of the Debmarine Namibia workforce, which is a major increase from 18 percent when the company migrated from South Africa to Namibia in 2002. On average Debmarine Namibia spends N$18 million per annum on training and development, which has so far benefitted 322 young Namibians over thirteen years.

By Edgar Brandt

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