Overall, the industrial sector—which includes mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, water, and gas—generated 34 percent of the GDP in 1998.
Mining contributed 13 percent of the GDP and is the largest source of export earnings. Namibia has great mineral wealth including diamonds, uranium, copper, zinc, gold, and silver. Diamond production was about 1.4 million carats in 1998, contributing more than a third of foreign exchange earnings.
Before the country's independence in 1990 large areas of Namibia were opened to oil and gas prospecting, but as yet there have not proved to be major reserves of either fuel source. On-shore reserves are becoming depleted but off-shore output has risen quickly, helped by new mining technology.
Uranium production grew by 45 percent in 5 years to 1998, with 3,257 tons of uranium oxide mined in 1998. It is estimated that the large Rossing uranium mine has deposits to last until 2020. Copper production fell from 30,000 tons in 1994 to 8,000 tons in 1998, but a new copper mine at Haib started production in 1999 with a projected output of 115,000 tons annually. Moreover, sea salt is produced from coastal brine pans at Walvis Bay and Swakopund.
Although large zinc deposits were discovered in 1976, the technique needed to extract the metal from the ore has only recently been developed. Zinc production has been rising from the mid-1990s. It was confirmed in November 1998 that the Skorpion mine and refinery were to be developed with a projected output of 150,000 tons of refined zinc and an expected contribution to the GDP of 5 percent.
In 1998, manufacturing generated 17 percent of the GDP, and it was mostly located in the capital, Windhoek, and in some of the coastal towns. The sector comprises mainly processing of agricultural products for export and for domestic consumption. Fish processing is particularly important, and it makes up a quarter of the output of the manufacturing sector. Other important activities include the processing of meat and dairy products, beer and soft-drink production, metal fabrication (particularly the production of cans for fish), wood products, chemicals (particularly paints and plastics), and garment and leather goods manufacture.
Electricity is generated from a hydroelectric installation at Ruacana and from a coal fired station in Wind-hoek. When Ruacana water levels are high, electricity is exported to South Africa, and when the water levels are low, electricity is imported. There are some off-shore gas reserves at Kudu, and it is hoped these can be developed to diversify Namibia's sources of electricity generation