The Ministry of Mines and Energy has come under scrutiny for allegedly failing to regulate the extractive sector in a manner that protects the country’s natural wealth.
Commenting after a fact-finding mission on alleged illegal lithium mining activities in the Dâures constituency last week, Bernadus Swartbooi, Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on natural resources, last week put the ministry on the spot over the alleged lack of solid regulations.
He was joined on the mission by parliamentarians Tjekero Tweya, Kletus Karondo, Maria Elago, and Maria Kamutali.
The visit follows the motion tabled in parliament by deputy LPM president Henny Seibeb in April, on concerns over illegal lithium mining at Uis and Omatjete. “This issue is very sensitive. I am shocked that in a country where we believe we have institutions and systems, such allegations have not been dealt with earlier, despite having national intelligence, non-profits, and other institutions,” Swartbooi said.
Meanwhile, minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo is expected to respond to the committee’s findings when parliament resumes from its recess in June.
During the investigation, the committee found evidence that the Dâure Daman Traditional Authority has received gifts and allowances from Chinese-owned mining company Xinfeng Investments.
This has raised questions about the transparency and accountability of the traditional council regarding lithium mining activities.
In addition to the gift and allowance allegations, the committee also discovered that the coordinates of the mining site appeared to have been changed to benefit certain individuals at the expense of another Namibian who owned the exclusive prospecting licence (EPL).
“It appears that the coordinates belonged to another person before, and it seems there has been an inside job within the ministry to change the coordinates to this company, therefore benefiting these people at the expense of another Namibian who actually owned the EPL,” Swartbooi said.
He emphasised the need for the committee to thoroughly investigate the situation and engage with officials.
If the allegations are proven true, there may be a need for the president to intervene and hold officials criminally liable and discharge them from their political and administrative responsibility, he said. “If we had a proper democracy, this is the type of thing for which you would have already pushed a motion of no confidence first, in the minister and the deputy minister responsible for this.
“And then you would go to the executive director, the mining commissioner, and all other responsible individuals,” Swartbooi said.
IGNORING ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
During a meeting with Long Fire Mining, which is part of a joint venture with Xinfeng, Tweya raised questions about large mining activities taking place on mining claims.
This stems from the local communities’ claim that these activities are posing a threat to the environment and livestock, ultimately affecting their livelihoods. Likulano Januarie of Long Fire confirmed the mining activities, saying he does not require an environmental clearance certificate or permission from the ministry.
RAKING IN THOUSANDS
The parliamentary committee also discovered that the Dâure Daman traditional authority is reportedly running a consultancy agency for land use in their areas, and is charging potential miners for consent letters for mining-related activities. According to a rates card seen by The Namibian, the fees for mining liocence consent letters are N$20 000 for locals and N$50 000 for international applicants, and N$10 000 for EPLs, with renewals costing N$20 000. The traditional authority’s councillors could not provide clear answers and documentation as proof, and a second meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, which was cancelled at the last minute. “We need to deal with these allegations that they are being paid, and this is why they are not doing anything.
We do not shy away from those allegations. It’s our responsibility to report back to parliament what the issues are,” Tweya said.
A mining official said no law prohibits traditional authorities from running consultancy agencies and charging fees for their services.
He said with any such arrangement, it is important to ensure transparency and accountability to prevent any conflict of interest or corruption.