Sunday, June 23, 2019

Namibia Safe Should Trump Hike Uranium Tariffs
by Lazarus Amukeshe

View of the open pit and surrounding landscape at Rössing Uranium, from the 'Hill Jim' viewpoint. Photo: Rio Tinto

WITH China dominating the Namibian uranium export market, the United States of America's possible hike in uranium tariffs will be something that Namibian mines could shake off.

This is according to mining analyst Kees Dekker, who was responding to questions sent by The Namibian on the section 232 application in the USA initiated by US uranium companies in an effort to get an advantage over other uranium producers.

“I do not think it will have much effect on Namibia, whatever the outcome. The Chinese have basically secured uranium production in Namibia for domestic purposes,” he said.

Dekker said over time, uranium production in the US has dropped substantially, now only accounting for a fraction of total US demand.

Exports to the USA have been decreasing over the years, with the highest export figure recorded in 2010 at N$1,25 billion. No uranium was exported to the USA last year.

China, on the other hand, has started taking up more Namibian uranium, from about N$672 million in export gains recorded in 2010 to N$5,5 billion in 2018. The biggest contributor is the Chinese-controlled Husab mine, which earned revenue of about N$4,6 billion in 2018.

“The issue (section 232) has been under review, and a recommendation submitted to Trump for a decision. It is still very doubtful the decision will be favourable to the US producers,” Dekker observed.

Barnerman Resources' Brandon Munro said there are many potential outcomes from the Trump administration's determination of the section 232 trade investigation into uranium imports.

“The United States currently accounts for a quarter of worldwide uranium demand, so it is important for future uranium developments that Namibia maintains access to all uranium markets, including the United States,” he noted.

Munro is, however, hopeful that should trade restrictions be imposed on uranium imports into the US, he would hope that Namibia's long history of co-operation with the United States would ensure that Namibian-origin uranium is excluded from any trade barriers.

Executive director at the Uranium Association of Namibia, Gabi Schneider, said it was too soon to comment, and they will await the decision, set to be announced in July.

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