‘Business unusual’ was the order of the day during 2020, especially in the early part of the year when the COVID-19 pandemic was first felt.

The mine was in minimal operational mode when mining operations were forced to slow down between March and June, while controls were implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 on-site.

As can be expected, this had an impact on ore supply, which was mitigated by depleting run-of-mine stockpiles and reducing cutoff grades to meet tonnage requirements, albeit at lower grades.

Enos Somongula (front) and Mwawedange Ndaudanawa (back) from the contracting company, disinfecting one of Rössing’s buses.

Introducing the COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan

In addition to implementing control measures as prescribed by the World Health Organisation, later further enhancing these measures by complying with the State of Emergency and other Government directives, Rössing introduced a COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

The ERP followed a four-phased approach towards managing the pandemic and remains dynamic as we adapt to changing circumstances.

As a public health issue, the mine’s health management team were key role players in the establishment of processes and controls for the management of the pandemic on site to limit its impact on the workforce.

In addition to all legally prescribed COVID-19 controls, Rössing and contractor employees all received fabric reusable masks, employee tool-kit booklets, individual thermometers, fridge magnets with key messages and individual hand sanitisers to enhance and support the controls against COVID-19.

A wide range of measures were also put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, such as temperature checks, thermal cameras for employee screening, hand sanitisers, and employee support for those that were affected by COVID-19, among others.

Extensive awareness was done by communicating to the mine’s workforce, as well as its contractor workforce, through the issuing of 52 Coronavirus newsletters and the distribution and display of posters which addressed key and relevant aspects about the pandemic. Television monitors were placed throughout the mine with media player capabilities, which enable Rössing to present informative videos on COVID-19.

A link on the mine’s intranet provided ongoing updates on control measures at the workplace to combat the spread of the virus. The wearing of respiratory protection has become compulsory on-site, while social distancing measures were implemented in offices, buses, vehicles, and all other facilities.

Support Government initiatives

As a responsible business, Rössing supported the Namibian Government’s initiatives to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Namibia. An oxygen generator plant, manufactured in Windhoek, was donated, and delivered to the new COVID-19 isolation facility at Walvis Bay State Hospital.

The plant was purchased at a cost of nearly N$3.8 million and will be made available to supply oxygen to about 75 to 80 of the 150 beds in the isolation facility.

The hand-over event was attended by the Governor of the Erongo Region and various members of the regional and local governments, as well as private sector representatives. The isolation facility will serve the communities of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Arandis.

Rössing further supported Government efforts by donating N$200,000 to the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

We also supported Swakopmund State Hospital with a donation of personal protective clothing (PPC) that would safeguard personnel involved in dealing with the impact of the pandemic.

The donation, valued at N$10,000, included PPC such as goggles, shoes, gum boots, overalls and chemical overalls for personnel operating the hospital’s incinerator, as well as important items for infection control. Dispensers and sanitisers were also donated to support the hospital’s medical wards.


(Above) Rössing Uranium’s MD, Johan Coetzee (far right in photo) with Erongo regional governor, Neville André Itope, Rössing Uranium’s Partnership, Communication and External Affairs manager Daylight Ekandjo and Acting GM: Organisational Resources Germano Musili, at the hand-over event of the oxygen generator plant to the new COVID-19 isolation facility in Walvis Bay.

Community and social involvement

In late August and early September, Tippy Taps, funded by Rössing, were installed at various sites in Swakopmund and Arandis. The Tippy Tap is a simple device for hand washing with running water. A 5-litre container with a small hole near the cap is filled with water and tipped with a stick and rope tied through a hole in the cap. As only the soap is touched with the hands, the device is very hygienic.

Tippy Taps were installed at COSDEC, the Rössing Foundation office in Swakopmund and at identified public gathering areas in the DRC township and at the Airport Strip, as well as in Arandis at the Rössing Foundation Maths and Science Centre, NIMT, ACDC and AIMS.

With these activities Rössing demonstrated our support for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3.

(Above) A 4-year-old resident of the DRC informal settlement in Swakopmund, washing her hands by making use of a tippy tap.

Impacting on procurement of major consumables

The procurement of major consumables was substantially impacted by the lockdowns imposed in Namibia and South Africa early in 2020 and depletion of our stocks of these consumable products has the potential to halt our operations.

During the initial lockdown there were total border closures and long delays at ports, and our suppliers’ factories closed for unplanned periods.

However, we took various steps to avoid product outages:

  • We immediately provided all our suppliers with essential service letters as the mining industry in Namibia received permission to continue mining under some strict conditions.
  • We engaged with authorities in South Africa to allow Arcelor Mittal to continue delivering grinding rods, and also to produce coil sheets for Greif to manufacture final product drums. The rest of the industry were unable to get steel products. Namibian steel consumers are still not receiving required volumes.
  • To avoid mandatory quarantining, we engaged with the Walvis Bay Port Authority to ensure our vessels were off-loaded if they had sailed for more than fourteen days since the last stop.
  • To avoid mandatory quarantining, we engaged with the Walvis Bay Port Authority to ensure our vessels were off-loaded if they had sailed for more than fourteen days since the last stop.
  • Transnet experienced long delays due to not having sufficient wagons available to move between rail stations, and this meant that our ammonia would get stuck in South Africa. We engaged with third party chemical suppliers and transport companies and were able to secure road transport for ammonia gas that required a number of changes onsite to ensure the safe off-loading of the gas.
  • Saldanha Steel, our major supplier of hematite, closed down at the start of the pandemic and we had to hastily find alternative suppliers. With a combination of actions we sourced ferrous as a temporary replacement product from South Africa, China and our neighbours, Swakop Uranium. We eventually went back to hematite that was sourced from South Africa and China.
  • Due to face-to-face meeting restrictions and expected delays due to the international time zones, we started our sulphuric acid contract negotiations six months ahead of the current expiry date and successfully concluded them before the commencement date of 1 February 2021.


The current regulations and safety measures in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 are expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future, as the pandemic has not yet run its full course.

Rössing will remain diligent in the implementation of safety measures to protect our employees and contractors, as well as their families and friends.