The year 2017 was certainly a year of consolidation. Not only did we begin to see the results of the significant amount of work that we've put in over the past three years in our safety and mining operations, we also continued to invest in our most important asset — our people — for the sustainability of our business.
Although market conditions for uranium did not improve during 2017 and instead remained stagnant, in addition to the previous five years' deterioration, we have much to celebrate on a local level.
One such celebration — and an important milestone for us — was without a doubt, ending the year with an All-injury Frequency Rate (AIFR) of 0.39, the lowest in Rössing’s past ten years. We believe this achievement is the result of our relentless quest towards zero harm, as expressed in our game-changer initiative, called critical risk management, or CRM, which is a programme designed to recognise critical risks in our work and eliminate fatalities.
The safety of our people is always our first priority and creating an environment which is fatality free, in which everyone goes home safely after every shift, remains a core value of our business. Although we are extremely proud of our low AIFR, we are aware that the challenge will be to improve on it, proving that Rössing is indeed a safety leader in the global uranium mining industry.
Another milestone — and one we're equally proud of — relates to two 'first-evers', both applicable to women in mining and attesting to our aim of working towards a more gender-inclusive work environment.
For the first time, the board of directors is chaired by a woman: Ms Foibe Louise Namene, who was appointed as from 1 December 2017. A warm word of welcome to her; we are looking forward to her professional guidance and support.
Also for the first time, Rössing Uranium's general manager: operations is a woman. In February 2018 Liezl Davies took over from Martin Tjipita who left Rössing to take up a senior executive role of leading the Namibian operations of an international company involved in the resources sector.
Currently, women form 18 per cent of our workforce and while it is in line with international mining trends, we actively want to increase this percentage. We encourage young female Namibians to explore the mining industry as a career option where opportunities abound.
Throughout 2017, the uranium market remained stagnant, experiencing a significant oversupply of uranium. This resulted in the spot price languishing between US$20 and US$25 per pound for most of the year.
While the majority of Rössing’s production is marketed through long-term contracts with a diverse selection of customers, the low spot price conditions impacted on market conditions and the overall portfolio price. It therefore remains challenging times for Rössing and other uranium producers worldwide.
Making our business sustainable
We cannot control international market conditions, but we can support our human assets and operational environment. This we did to the best of our abilities during 2017.
An important step in making our business sustainable was to ensure we have the right people in the right places. A number of organisational changes took effect during the reporting year with the aim to improve specifc areas of our business.
We also successfully rolled out our WHY-project as one of our key 'people' initiatives. Working with our entire workforce, various sessions were held offsite with the goal being to engage our employees’ minds, hearts and hands in order to go forward in creating an exciting future for Rössing.
Supporting the WHY-project was the #onlytogether initiative, which aimed at regularly reminding us that we must work together if we want to meet our production and cost-saving targets.
We put a significant amount of work into improving our operational output. Over the past few years we actively opened up high-grade ore areas and we are beginning to see the results of our investment: we steadily increased our production output over the past three years. Compared with 2014 to 2016 when we produced less than 2,000 tonnes uranium oxide, our 2017 production increased to 2,110 tonnes.
We have also done much work in contract management and other cost-saving initiatives. It is imperative that we need to consolidate these initiatives into a consistent production performance, making it a feature of our future business, and not just a once-off achievement. Going forward, we will continue our consolidation and cost-saving efforts in 2018 and beyond, along with focusing on maximising our resources.
Our aspirations for 2018 are a fatality-free Rössing mine with an engaged and empowered workforce. Most importantly, we will continue to improve our safety foundation, especially around process safety, as it is a critical area for us. Consistent engagement of our employees remains key, as good engagement leads to good safety performance.
As in the past, our endeavour will be to work smarter and harder, always mindful of working safely, whilst staying committed to making a difference in Namibia.
25 April 2018