Otavi, Otjiwarongo to glitter less

Chamwe Kaira

The old saying, ‘Not all the glitters is gold,’ has come true for the towns of Otavi and Otjiwarongo.

The towns will face the economic impact of the scaling down of the operations of the B2Gold’s Otjikoto Mine, which is situated between the two towns.

The company has started the phased closure of its mine because of its depleted gold resource. Commercial mining started in 2015.

Country Manager, John Roos, disclosed that the company last year conducted a detailed social impact assessment study to see what the impact could be. He said the outcome of the study drives its investments into the communities, through social corporate responsibility to alleviate the pressures from the retrenchments.

B2Gold Chairman, Dr Leake Hangala said the company has been engaging the towns, telling them and preparing them for a new arrangement.

“You must understand that we have about 800 people that we employ. We will retrench about 250 or so, we still have about 500 people odd that will be employed by B2Gold. Therefore, services and contributions to Otavi and Otjiwarongo will continue albeit in a more reduced manner.”

Hangala said the company has had a lot of engagements with the towns to see how it can alleviate the economic impact.

“In fact, we (B2Gold) have certain properties in Otjiwarongo, we can give some of the properties to them as a contribution, building. “There will be an impact but we also tell them to prepare for that impact. But it is also dangerous for any organisation including the local authorities to perpetually depend on one company, you must make provision for when things change. The good thing is that nothing is coming as a surprise, we have been engaging them.”

Roos said it is obviously a traumatic experience for people who have not been exposed to retrenchment process before.

“We try and work on the effects of that, its counselling services, financial literacy awareness. We are cognizant that our employees have a lot of debt. We try to manage their debt levels by giving them advice, coaching and this all happens on the mine and in the Windhoek office. We also upskill them to go out and find a new job. When you start working at a mine, you know that the mine will close one day,” said Roos.

He said for the next three years the corporate social investment will focus on Otavi and Otjiwarongo.

“We will identify high income projects, if people start losing their jobs, it will have an economic impact on Otavi and Otjiwarongo. We are working on various incentives to address the impact.”

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